News Briefs: They Found It! City Ends Hunt for Broken Water Main

In this week's news, sewer and water crews diligently search for a broken main, areas of Michigan struggle with heavy rains, and one city debates using basements for stormwater cisterns.
News Briefs: They Found It! City Ends Hunt for Broken Water Main

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A three-day hunt for a broken water main in Bay City, Mich., ended on Monday when city crews were finally able to isolate the culprit. The city had been under a water use emergency during the incident as 20 million gallons of water spilled into the Saginaw River.

Teams from all over the county searched for the break, checking pipe pressures, fire hydrants and fields for the source.

On Aug. 11, water and sewer crews discovered the broken 24-inch main on a property near the Bay City Wastewater Treatment Plant. The pipe had ruptured and water had drained into a 36-inch storm pipe that discharges into the river. Roughly 5 million gallons were lost every 12 hours during the incident.

“Until we open it up, we won’t know for sure, but we feel this was an extensive break,” says Terry Kilburn, the city’s water and sewer manager, on “The water main likely blew right out.”

City officials lifted the water emergency Tuesday morning, but continued to advise residents to limit water use as the reservoir filled back up.

Source:, CBS

Massive Rains Overwhelm Detroit Sewers

Officials in Southeast Michigan made it clear that upgraded sewer infrastructure wouldn’t have prevented flooding after heavy downpours inundated the region. On Monday, Detroit received more than 6 inches of rain in just a few hours, and although the sewer system worked as anticipated, streets flooded.

“I don’t think you could expect our system to handle that amount of water in such a short period of time, nor would you want to make the kind of investment necessary to do so,” says Joan Weidner, senior planner with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments in a Detroit News article.

Detroit and the surrounding region need $30 billion in sewer upgrades according to a 2001 study by the Council.

Monday’s flooding is being called a 100-year event. It rained so much that manhole covers popped off, 108-inch sewer lines were packed full and the George W. Kuhn Retention Treatment Basin recorded its highest water levels ever.

Oakland County Water Resources spokesman Craig Covey told the Detroit News, “There’s no storm drain big enough to handle 4 inches of rain in four hours.”

Source: Detroit News

City Considers Using Abandoned Basements for Stormwater Cisterns

The City of Milwaukee has released a feasibility study that examines turning vacant basements into stormwater cisterns. The plan details using foreclosure properties in flood-prone areas to reduce basement backups in surrounding occupied homes.

In a forward to the report, Erick Shambarger, deputy director for the City’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, asks, “When the City razes a blighted property, could we retain the basement cavity and convert it to an underground stormwater management cistern, thereby saving costs on demolition of the house and new construction of the stormwater feature?”

After several years of major storms and flooding, the City created a Flooding Study Task Force, which included frequent discussion on basement flooding caused when the combined sewer system was overwhelmed by heavy rains. When looking at a map of affected areas, Shambarger noticed the flooded areas overlapped with the center of the City’s foreclosure crisis.

Shambarger and his team called the idea “BaseTern,” and trademarked the name on behalf of the city. The City is assessing building a pilot project to test the concept.

Source: NPR


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