Public Hearing on water infrastructure held

A public hearing was held on May 9 at Northville City Hall by the Department of Public Works to discuss projects designed to upgrade the city’s aging water infrastructure. City Manager George Lahanas conducted the meeting that included an OHM Advisors’ presentation, which gave an overview of repair and replacement projects designed to deliver a more reliable water system.

Project construction will involve replacement and installation of approximately 21,320 feet of 8-inch to 12-inch water main; closing down the city’s underground water storage reservoir and associated pump station; construction of a new booster pump station; installation of new pressure-reducing valves; and replacement of 35 lead service lines. (View the presentation in the download section below.)

DPW Director Mike Domine will present a resolution on the water infrastructure project to City Council at the May 15 meeting.

History of the city’s water supply
The city of Northville’s water system dates to approximately 1892 when water was sourced from springs located just northwest of the city along Beck Road. Numerous sections of the existing water main date to that original system and have provided more than 100 years of reliable service but those water mains are wearing out – resulting in uneven pressure that can cause water main breaks.

By the 1930’s sand filters and an underground reservoir were constructed just south of the existing elevated storage tank on Baseline Road. In the 1960’s the sand filters were removed from service with the change to water supply from Detroit, yet the original filter structure and adjacent underground reservoir remain in service today. This structure holds more than 500,000 gallons of water and serves as the current discharge point for water from the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). A pump station was added to the filter building in the 1960’s and is used to fill the city’s elevated storage tank, aka the water tower.

Since the 1960’s, minimal improvements to the original water system have been made beyond expansion to service new portions of the city and sporadic water main replacement. In the oldest portions of the system, water mains are undersized by current standards.

Deficiencies in the water system
In late 2022, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) issued an Administrative Consent Order (ACO), requiring the city to acknowledge and communicate their progress towards addressing issues outlined in a Significant Deficiencies Violation Notice received in March 2022. As a result of the ACO, the city commissioned OHM to conduct a Water Feasibility Study to investigate the city’s options to comply with Act 399 requirements. The draft feasibility study currently recommends removal of the underground reservoir and associated pump control house. Water will be conveyed from GLWA through a new booster station near Center Street and Baseline Road to the existing elevated storage tank, and pressure-reducing valves will be added to reinstate proper north/south pressure districts.

Project costs
The total estimated cost for all projects is $24 million, which would cost the average city water user an additional $103 bi-monthly. This cost may be offset by other factors, such as grant money the city may receive through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program; projects that may obtain additional funding sources; or new users from redevelopment at Foundry Flask and the Downs.

Delaying the projects will result in increased long-term costs, potential administrative issues with EGLE, increasing water main breaks, and ongoing problems with the overall water system.

Where new water mains are required along city streets in poor condition, the improvements are planned to coincide with much needed road improvements, resulting in lower overall costs by coordinating the construction efforts.

None of the projects identified is required due to the proposed Downs site redevelopment.

Financing the program through a state program and potential federal funding

Michigan's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) is designed to assist in satisfying the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act by offering low-interest 20-year loans. Currently loan rates for FY23 are 1.875% and the planning document estimates FY24 rates will be 2.75% based on current market trends. The available loan rates are typically well below otherwise available bond rates.

On Nov. 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law. Referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), it included an appropriation to the EPA to strengthen the nation’s drinking water and wastewater systems. A sizeable portion of the BIL dollars will flow through the state of Michigan’s DWSRF program and represent an opportunity for the city to receive a grant allocation in the form of loan principal forgiveness depending on project plan scoring and available funds. Due to the city’s current ACO and need for lead service line replacement, the DWSRF Project Planning Document was prepared to potentially receive grant funding in addition to the available low-interest loan. Potential grant funding levels are unknown and will not be published until early Fall 2023 after the state’s review of all submitted project plans.
  • OHM report at Public Hearing on May 9, 2023