Friday, December 19, 2008

City of Detroit, Suburbs Reach Accord Regarding DWSD

The long-simmering dispute between the City of Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and its Suburban customers reportedly was resolved on December 18, 2008 in a hearing in U.S. District Court before Judge John Feikens. An outline of the settlement was reported earlier by Crain's Detroit Business here, and by the Detroit Free Press here.

The terms of the accord are laid out in a 50 page Settlement Agreement (below) that was presented to the Court, and will be accepted unless someone comes forth to show cause why the Agreement should not be accepted. Opposition is unlikely.

This Settlement Agreement will not end Judge Feikens' three-decades long control over DWSD, -- paragraph 8 of the Agreement refers to a potential Third Amended Consent Judgment -- but it will end lengthy and costly litigation between DWSD and Oakland and Macomb Counties over repair of the Macomb Interceptor and payment for an 800 megahertz radio system.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel Design Issues Outlined in Recent Presentation

The Michigan Water Environment Association (MWEA) has posted a presentation made earlier this year by Mirza Rabbaig (DWSD) and Bob Barbour (Jacobs Engineering), which outlines some of the many design issues and geotechnical challenges involved in the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel project.

As reported here and here, the South Tunnel (PC-764) was bid in April and approved in September, 2008. The North Tunnel (PC-764) is bidding on February 12, 2009, as noted here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Judge Denies Reports of Retirement, Ending Oversight of DWSD

Despite reports that he may be ending his 31 year oversight of DWSD, U.S. District Judge John Feikens, who turned 91 last week, denies that he's close to retiring and stepping down from overseeing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department -- "There's no truth to it," Feikens said Tuesday. "I don't know who is coming up with these rumors."

The Judge's comments were reported (here) by the Detroit News on December 10, 2008.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (North) Bid Date Extended

The bid date for the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (North) (PC-763) has been extended to Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. from December 18th. This is second of half of the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel.

The Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (South) (PC-764) was bid on April 24, 2008, as noted here. A low bid of $316,170,200 was submitted by Kenny Construction/Obayashi, JV. The contract for the South Tunnel (PC-764), was approved by the Detroit City Council on September 25, 2008, as reported here.

For more information about the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel project read here. For specific information about PC-763 (South Tunnel), read here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

DWSD Special Master, Thomas Lewand, Profiled in Crain's Detroit Business

Crain's Detroit Business this week profiles Attorney Thomas Lewand, who has served as Special Master for Judge Feikens since 2002 in connection with the 1977 EPA lawsuit against the City of Detroit (DWSD) for pollution discharge violations. The article is here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Federal Oversight of DWSD May Be Near End

The Detroit Free Press reports that Judge John Feikens, who turned 91 on December 3, 2008, may be ready to end his supervision of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Feikens, who has overseen the Department since 1977 as part of a pollution lawsuit settlement, has sought a global resolution of a number of outstanding disputes between the Department and its suburban customers.
"Feikens said the system now complies with the Clean Water Act, but he worries that falling revenues caused by decreased water consumption this year could make it hard to fund improvements still needed to maintain that compliance. But Feikens said that if the region can work together, court supervision could become unnecessary."
Under Judge Feikens' supervision, DWSD has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrades to its main wastewater treatment plant.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) recently reported that Southeast Michigan communities, including the City of Detroit, had spent $2.4 billion in projects designed to reduce combined sewer overflow (CSO) pollutant discharges, resulting in an 85 percent reduction in untreated CSO discharges.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Water Demand Drops -- May Affect Rates, DWSD Construction Plans

The Detroit Free Press reported on November 30, 2008 that a drop in the demand for water among City and Suburban users may contribute to an increase and water and sewer rates by DWSD:

"Detroit officials are expected to raise water rates 6% to 10% and sewer rates by as much as 13% to 17% next month, according to some suburban leaders who have met with the department.

"The revenue dip was enough to prompt U.S. District Judge John Feikens to schedule a hearing for Tuesday [December 2, 2008] to hear how the water department and others in the region plan to deal with it.
* * *
"Feikens, who has ordered hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements to the sewerage side of the system to bring it into compliance with the Clean Water Act, said revenue is needed to fund those projects.
"If a revenue stream is affected by a certain percentage, there are rules in the Clean Water Act that say some projects may not be economically possible," Feikens said.

"It isn't yet clear whether the revenue picture is bad enough to consider such delays, Feikens said."

Comment: This article, and Judge Fekeins' comments, appear to be a reference to several ambitious, and expensive, water transmission projects announced earlier this year by DWSD, the North Oakland Transmission and Flint Loop projects, bids for which have already been delayed once, and could be delayed into 2009.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Detroit River Outfall No. 2: Notice to Proceed Issued for Contract PC-771

On November 17, 2008, DWSD issued Notice to Proceed to Vinci/Frontier-Kemper JV for construction of the Modified Detroit River Outfall No. 2 (MOD DRO2) project (DWSD Contract PC-771). The contract duration is 1,826 days.

DRO-2 is a $299 million project and is intended to meet a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit requirement to construct and place into operation a second Detroit River outfall for discharge of treated municipal wastewater from the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

Construction work for a prior project (DWSD Contract PC-709) was undertaken in November, 1999 and was planned to be operational in May 2005. That project consisted of an approximately 1-mile-long, 21-foot finished diameter rock tunnel approximately 300 feet below ground surface with associated shafts and terminal effluent diffusers. It was designed to transport and discharge during the critical design flood condition 1,000+/- million gallons per day (mgd) of treated wastewater from the existing Rouge River Outlet conduit to the Detroit River. However, construction of this initial project was halted following a flood event during tunneling activities in April 2003. To date, the tunnel excavation remains flooded and the construction contract (PC-709) has since been terminated.

The new proposed MOD DRO-2 project is described as follows: Plug a portion of the as-built flooded tunnel. Backfill the lower portion of the entrance shaft, lower portions of two (2) access shafts and lower portions of the six (6) Detroit River diffuser risers. At the entrance shaft, construct a pile-supported concrete box structure in soft ground to intercept and transfer all flows from the existing dual-box River Rouge Outlet conduit. Construct a new 6,200-feet–long, 24 +/- feet excavated diameter rock tunnel (21-1/2 foot finished) along the original tunnel alignment, but at a higher elevation (approximately 160 feet below ground surface) and connect with remaining portions of access and diffuser riser shafts. Other work includes modification, rehabilitation, and construction of new hydraulic control structures (gates) and associated mechanical, electrical, and system components.

Tunnel construction will be through permeable rock, and below the groundwater table with artesian groundwater pressure conditions (approximately 5 bar) with hydrogen sulfide and possibly other harmful gases. A slurry type pressurized-face tunnel boring machine (slurry TBM) erecting a single-pass, gasketed segmental precast concrete tunnel liner will be required for tunnel construction. Short adit tunnel connections to the two (2) existing access shafts and six (6) existing diffusers risers will be made with conventional mechanized excavators. Ground improvement, such as grouting and ground freezing, will also be required for groundwater control for construction of access shaft and diffuser riser connections.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Former DWSD Deputy Director Gary Fujita joins IMG, also working for Wade-Trim

Former Deputy Director Gary Fujita, who retired from DWSD in July, has joined Infrastructure Management Group (IMG), which was retained by DWSD at the direction of Judge John Fekeins several years ago. Mr. Fujita will assist IMG with Succession Planning and Workforce Development for DWSD. Mr. Fujita is also engaged by Wade-Trim, a local engineering firm, to assist it with projects other than those involving DWSD.

Mr. Fujita's new role with IMG was disclosed in an October 9, 2008 letter sent to Judge John Feikens, and filed by the Court on October 21, 2008.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Turner Promoted to Interim Director of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department

Pamela Turner was promoted on September 26, 2008 to Interim Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. She replaces Anthony Adams, who served for a short term under the former Kilpatrick Administration.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Turner served as Assistant Director for Water Supply Operations. She has worked for DWSD since 1977. Ms. Turner holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Michigan.

Ms. Turner has served on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Technical Advisory Committee for the MDEQ Source Water Assessment Program. She is a member of the American Water Works Association and has served on the AWWA Research Foundation’s Research Advisory Council. She currently serves on the AWWA Michigan Section’s Water Utility Committee.

Ms. Turner is also a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Lake St. Clair charged with developing long-term strategies for protecting source water quality in the Lake St. Clair – Lake Erie corridor.