Thursday, December 17, 2009

Detroit Water Board Approves Sewer Repair Contracts to Inland Waters, Rejecting Lakeshore Engineering Protest

On December 16, 2009, the Board of Water Commissioners narrowly approved two sewer repair contracts, worth upwards of $80 million, to Inland Waters Pollution Control, Inc

Lakeshore Engineering, the second bidder, protested the award to Inland Waters. Anthony Adams, former Deputy Mayor and Interim Director of DWSD, spoke on behalf of Lakeshore Engineering during the public comment session. 

Despite concerns about awarding both contracts to one contractor, the Board later approved  the award of both contracts (DWS-876 and DWS-877) to Inland Waters. The votes were 6-1 and 4-3 respectively. Each contract was approved at a cost not-to-exceed of $40 million.  Both contracts must still be approved by the Detroit City Council.

These two contracts replace earlier sewer repair contracts that had been held by Inland Waters and Lakeshore Engineering.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monica Conyer's Sentencing Delayed (Again)

The Detroit Free Press reports (here) that the sentencing date for Monica Conyers, in connection with her guilty plea in the Synagro Scandal, has been pushed off again to March 10, 2010, from January 15th. The disgraced former City Council Member admitted earlier this year accepting a $6,000 bribe for voting to approve a $1.2 billion contract for sludge hauling contract. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weiss Construction Low Bidder on PC-776 Project

Earlier today, Weiss Construction submitted the lowest bid for the PC-776 project. Weiss beat out 7 other bidders for the project with a low bid of $25,312,000. Weiss' bid was $182,000 lower than the Engineer's Estimate for this project, which involves replacement of 25 pumps at Detroit's main waste treatment plant at 9300 W. Jefferson, and related electrical work. 

Weiss --------- $ 25,312,000
Walsh --------- $ 25,550,771
Lakeshore ---- $ 25,972,000
Walbridge ---- $ 26,360,000
Tooles -------- $ 26,420,104
DeMaria ----- $ 26,892,000
White -------- $ 28,145,000
DCI ---------- $ 28,626,000

Contract PC-776 involves providing new power supply cable to and from the secondary clarifiers and substation MCCs, providing new MCCs at each secondary clarifier, providing short-circuit analysis and fault rating, providing detailed hydraulic analysis and sizing of the pumps related to secondary clarifiers RAS pumping, providing 25 RAS pumps at the secondary clarifiers and completing all miscellaneous electrical work such as replacement of cables, conduit, pull boxes, panels and junction boxes.

Genesee County Proceeding with Plans for New Water System, Pipeline

Genesee County is reportedly proceeding with plans announced earlier this year, and reported here, to construct a new $600 million water transmission pipeline and water treatment plant.

Under the auspices of the new Karegnondi Water Authority, Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright is spearheading this effort, which is aimed at giving Genesee and Sanilac Counties, along with the cities of Lapeer, Imlay City, and Flint more control over their water rates. Mr. Wright has touted significant ($200 million) savings for Genesee County residents, but a recent article in The Davison Index notes that those savings are projected to be "in the long run, after a slight increase over the course of a 25-year bond to pay for the pipeline."

Comment: Unless I'm misreading things, this means the projected savings for Genesee County residents won't materialize for more than a generation. Isn't that like promising a tax cut . . . that doesn't kick in until 2034?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oakland-Macomb Interceptor Repair: Ric-Man Construction Scores First 2 Contracts

The first two contracts for repair of the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor were bid on November 23 and 24th and Ric-Man Construction was read low bidder on both projects.

OMI Contract No. 1

  • Ric-Man Construction       $12,486,880 
  • Jay Dee Contractors          $12,821,800
  • Dan’s Excavating               $14,488,800

OMI Contract No. 2  

  • Ric-Man Construction      $16,338,600 
  • Jay Dee Contractors        $18,814,000 
  • Dan’s Excavating             $20,973,000

Monday, November 30, 2009

James Rosendall Sentenced to 11 Months for Role in Synagro Scandal

Earlier today, former executive, James Rosendall, was sentenced to 11 months in federal prison for his role in the Synagro sludge scandal. Rayford Jackson was sentenced to 5 years in prison earlier this month, as reported here. Disgraced former Council Member, Monica Conyers, is due for sentencing on her guilty plea in January.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rayford Jackson Sentenced to 5 Years for Role in Synagro Scandal

On Friday, November 13, 2009, Detroit businessman Rayford Jackson was sentenced to a 5-year prison term for his role in the Synagro sludge-hauling bribery scandal that also ensnared former Councilwoman Monica Conyers. The 5-year sentence was the maximum that Judge Avern Cohn could have imposed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SW-548 Contract Approved By Water Board

On September 23, 2009, less than a month after bids were opened, the Board of Water Commissioners yesterday approved Contract No. SW-548 with Colasanti Construction Services for $49,680,368.

DWSD Contract SW-548, which was bid on September 1, 2009, involves a major overhaul of the Southwest Water Treatment Plant Sludge Treatment and Waste Washwater Treatment Facilities. The contract duration is 1,285 calendar days.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Promoted to DWSD Director from Interim Director, Pamela Turner Winning Praise

The Detroit Free Press has a nice article today praising Pamela Turner's role as Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Initially promoted to Interim Director in September, 2008, Ms. Turner was recently appointed to Director by Mayor Bing a few months ago. The Mayor's appointment also brought to a halt a national search for a new director.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Water Consumption Continues to Decline, Rate Increases Predicted

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department reports that water consumption in 2008 fell 12%, or about 16 billion gallons. From 2007, water consumption has dropped 15%, or 23 billion gallons.

Due to DWSD's significant fixed costs, including bond debt and other fixed operating costs, a significant decline in water consumption (revenue) will mean that rates for next year are bound to increase even more than usual.

And as we reported last December, a decrease in water revenues may contribute to further delays in court-ordered improvements to DWSD's system. Earlier this year, DWSD canceled two major tunnel contracts -- the Upper Rouge Tunnel and the Detroit River Outfall (DRO) Contract No. 2 -- worth over $600 million on grounds that they were too costly. Many other projects, which were slated for bidding earlier this year have been delayed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Genesee County Pipeline Declared "Reckless Folly" by Times-Herald Newspaper

In an opinion piece entitled "Pipeline has the look of a boondoggle," The Times-Herald in Port Huron asserts that "Genesee County's proposal to spend $600 million on a water pipeline from Lake Huron is reckless folly."

The Times-Herald takes issue with Genesee County's rationale for the new pipeline, including capacity, cost, and reliability.
  • "Capacity is not an issue. The Detroit water line, which went into use about 35 years ago, was built to carry as much as 1.2 billion gallons of water each day. In actuality, demand has been far less."
  • While Genesee County has complained that Detroit has doubled its water rates in the past seven years from $9 million to $18 million, "At that rate, how many years would it take to earn back [the] $600 million [Genesee County proposes to spend on a new water line]?
  • "It's disturbing that Genesee County officials would complain of service disruptions . . . without mentioning how these were caused by a massive power outage in the [S]ummer of 2003 that affected much of the Midwest and Northeast."
Click here to read the rest of this article.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Colasanti Low Bidder on SW-548 Project

Earlier today, Colasanti Construction Services submitted the lowest bid for the SW-548 project. Colasanti beat out 5 other bidders for the project with a low bid of $49,680,368.

Colasanti------ $ 49,680,368
DeMaria------ $ 51,000,000
Walsh -------- $ 51,234,087
Walbridge ---- $ 51,397,000
Lakeshore ---- $ 52,835,824
Weiss ---------$ 57,890,000

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Genesee County Withdrawal Permit Approved

On August 28, 2009, the MDEQ approved Genesee County's request to withdraw upwards of 85 million gallons per day from Lake Huron.

With an approved water withdrawal permit in hand, Genesee County can proceed with its announced plans to construct a new pipeline and water treatment plant under the auspices of the newly-formed "Karegnondi Water Authority." Approval of the withdrawal permit, may also spell doom for DWSD's Flint Loop project, which is designed to extend the DWSD system into Genesee County.

Commentary: On the other hand, having a permit in hand gives Genesee County increased bargaining leverage should it be interested in resuming talks with DWSD over sharing the cost of the Flint Loop. It appears that those discussions were active until about March (as reported here), when Genesee County submitted its water withdrawal permit application.

Right now, it will be 3-5 years of subsurface investigation, design, and construction before Genesee County will see a single gallon of water. Meanwhile, DWSD's Flint Loop project is already to proceed -- the design is complete, and a construction management contract (CS-1492) is already in place. Moreover, DWSD already has water treatment plant (Lake Huron WTP), with a current capacity of 400 million gallons per day, that was designed for expansion, and can accommodate increased water demands in excess of 1 billion gallons per day with additional pumps.

Does Genesee County really think it will save money by spending an estimated $600 million on a separate pipeline, water treatment plant, and related water transmission and distribution infrastructure? Really?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Detroit City Council Approves Sale of Oakland-Macomb Interceptor

Earlier today, the Detroit City Council approved the transfer of the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor (OMI) the Oakland-Macomb County Drainage District. The vote was 5-2 in favor of the transfer, which is part of a larger settlement reached last December between DWSD and its suburban customers.

The OMI requires approximately $125 million in emergency repairs, according to DWSD Interim Director, Pamela Turner, although other estimates have put the price tag as high as $160 million.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

City of Lapeer Agrees to Back New Water Authority

On August 17, 2009, the Lapeer City Commission approved a resolution supporting formation of a new water authority. Approval of the resolution does not commit the City of Lapeer financially to any of the proposed $600 million cost of a new system. The resolution simply gives the City Manager authority to participate in discussions with Genesee County about the proposed Karegnondi Water Authority.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Genesee County Launches Website for New Karegnondi Water Authority

In support of his effort to kick-start a new regional water authority, the Genesee County Drain Commissioner recently launched a new website for the nascent Karegnondi Water Authority -- Included on the website is the executive summary of a feasibility study prepared by Wade Trim and Rowe Professional Services.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Genesee County Responds to DWSD's Criticism of Plan for New Water Authority, 85 Million Gallon Withdrawal Request

On July 13, 2009, John F. O'Brien, Genesee County's Director, Division of Water and Waste Services, provided a 10 page, point-by-point response and refutation of DWSD's June 29, 2009 letter, which is critical of the County's plans to form a new water authority.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

DWSD Opposes Genesee County Water Plans

Genesee County's ambitious plan to build its own $600 million water system is encountering push back from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. No surprise.

In a June 29, 2009 letter (below), Interim-Director Pam Turner lays out DWSD's opposition to Genesee County's plan. Among the objections, DWSD contends Genesee County's proposal violates the evaluation criteria in the Great Lakes Compact, because it fails to address the availability of existing water supply systems (ie., the DWSD system).

In particular, DWSD has already undertaken plans to improve the supply of drinking water to Genesee County.

Both the Flint Loop and North Oakland Transmission projects were designed to increase supply and provide redundancy for Genesee County and the City of Flint. DWSD has already spent $28.6 million designing these two projects, and awarded a construction management contract. Theses projects are "shovel ready," but require the City of Flint to sign a new 30 year contract with DWSD, particularly in light of previously reported declines in water revenue. Removing the City of Flint from the calculation of water rates would increase water rates for the remaining ratepayers at least 6%, according to DWSD's estimate.

Its also appears that Genesee County's plans caught DWSD a bit flat-footed. Ms. Turner complains that when DWSD and Genesee County met on March 10, 2009 to discuss a cost-sharing plan, Genesee County failed to mention that it had already filed its application for a withdrawal permit a month earlier.

However, Genesee County Drain Commissioner, Jeff Wright, has not been secret about his plans for constructing a new water authority, as reported here. Mr. Wright's response to Pam Turner's 8-page letter was outlined in a July 6, 2009 article in the Flint Journal (here).

The MDEQ will receive public comments on Genesee County's withdrawal application until July 15, 2009, and then is expected to make a decision by August 22, 2009. Given DWSD's opposition, a delay in MDEQ's decision is likely.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Synagro Woes Continue: City of Houston Terminates Contract

Six months after the City of Detroit terminated Synagro's sludge contract for convenience (T4C), following allegations of corruption, allegations which were followed by convictions here and here, the City of Houston has elected to terminate its $28 million contract with Synagro. The issues in Houston, however, center on how Synagro was handling the sludge it was contracted to recycle. Apparently, Synagro was disposing of the sludge in landfills instead of hauling it off to be recycled.

If you're interested in reading the underlying correspondence from the City of Houston, the documents have been posted on the Houston Chronicle's website here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oakland Macomb Interceptor -- Court Orders Repair Schedule for OMI

Earlier today, the U.S. District Court (Judge John Feikens) entered an "Order Establishing Compliance Schedule for Interceptor Repairs," which establishes a schedule for upcoming repairs to the Oakland Macomb Interceptor (OMI). The Court entered this order following a request by Macomb County that a repair schedule be set by the Court. Ownership of the OMI is scheduled to pass from the City of Detroit (DWSD) to Oakland and Macomb Counties shortly.

The Court's June 30, 2009 Order sets an 8 year repair schedule, which is much longer than the 5 year schedule outlined at the June 10, 2009 public hearing on the OMI project. Its unclear why an 3 extra years was tacked onto the schedule when significant portions of the 21 mile long sewer are severely deteriorated and reportedly in danger of collapse.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monica Conyer's Resigns

Earlier today, "Council Member A," Monica Conyers, submitted her letter of resignation. Enough said.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Synagro Scandal: The Timeline

For those of you who are following the Synagro Scandal, or want more of the back story, the Detroit News updated its blow-by-blow timeline of the scandal (here) to include Monica Conyer's recent conviction.

Update (11/18/2011):  Apparently the Detroit News has moved the above cited story behind a pay wall. Not to fear. The Detroit Free Press published a similar timeline in July, 2010, which is still an active link here.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Synagro Scandal, "Council Member A" Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy Charge

Ending months of speculation, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers pleaded guilty today to a single charge of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with approval of the $1.2 billion Synagro sludge contract in 2007. Ms. Conyers accepted payments totaling $6,000 in exchange for her vote.

In his statement, U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg closed the door Friday on additional prosecutions of elected Detroit City Council members in a corruption probe in connection with a sludge-hauling contract.
“Today’s guilty plea by Ms. Conyers marks the completion of the government’s investigation of the role that elected members of the Detroit City Council had in approving the Synagro contract, though the investigation regarding the Synagro contract continues as to others,” he said. “This investigation has not uncovered evidence sufficient to support charging any other elected members of the Detroit City Council with taking bribes or engaging in acts of corruption relating to the Synagro contract.”
Click here for the rest of the story from Crain's Detroit Business, and here for the Detroit Free Press story.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Genesee County Proposes $600 Million Water Pipeline, New Water Authority

A month after applying to withdraw up to 85 million gallons a day from Lake Huron, Genesee County today laid out an ambitious plan to construct its own water supply system. The projected cost is $600 million.
Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright told representatives of communities in Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac counties at a meeting on June 25th that construction on the pipeline project could start by this time next year. He added that the chance to build the pipeline might never come again.
"If we don't take this opportunity -- in 30 years there won't be another opportunity to build this," Wright said. "Interest rates are favorable right now and there are government programs that could help pay" the cost of the borrowing.
The $600-million construction estimate includes the cost of several pumping stations, an inland reservoir in Lapeer County, twin pipelines along part of the route and water treatment facilities in each of the three counties. Wright said the pipeline construction would create more than 500 jobs for three to five years.

The pipeline would be owned by a new Karegnondi Water Authority, which could include the city of Flint, the city of Lapeer, Sanilac County, Lapeer County, Genesee County and St. Clair County.

Communities that agree to join the authority would pay a proportional share of the cost of building the pipeline, according to Wright. He said his goal is to establish the authority within 120 days, complete engineering, design and surveying work in the next nine months, and start construction of the buried pipeline by the time next year.

[Note: Although Oakland contributed $125,000 to a joint study looking at the feasibility of a new regional water authority in 2007, it does not appear that they are ready to join Genesee County as part of the new Karegnondi Water Authority.]

Detroit City Council Approves Rate Increase, Reluctantly

Just 2 days after it rejected an increase in rates, the Detroit City Council earlier today voted today 4-3 to approve an 8% hike in water and sewer rates. Monica Conyers, who voted against the increase on Tuesday, was absent for today's vote. Reports the Detroit News --
The Detroit City Council today passed a water rate increase, averting a potential move by a U.S. District judge to unilaterally set higher rates for 4 million customers in 126 communities.

Customers are set to see bills go up about 8 percent, an amount Detroit Water Department officials say is needed to bolster declining revenues and counter surging interest rates on money the system has borrowed for capital improvements.

The measure passed in a 4-3 vote this afternoon. Members JoAnn Watson, Kwame Kenyatta and Brenda Jones continued their stance on not supporting the proposal that hurts city residents who are facing substantial financial issues. Monica Conyers, who voted against the measure Tuesday, was absent, as was Martha Reeves.

For the complete story, click here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Water, Sewer Rate Increase Rejected by City Council

Earlier today, Detroit City Council rejected the 2009-2010 rate increases proposed by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. In March, DWSD proposed 5.1% water and 15.8% sewer rate increases for Detroit residents. Suburban customers would see wholesale increases of 8.9% for water and 2.4% for sewer rates.

One alternative for DWSD would be to request the U.S. District Court to order a rate increase. Judge John Feikens, who has had superintending control over the Department since 1977, has previously allowed DWSD to by-pass the Detroit City Council on such matters as approval of contracts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Synagro Scandal, Monica Conyers Identified as "Council Member A"

Crain's Detroit Business is reporting that Monica Conyers is "Council Member A" in the Rayford Jackson indictment. Council Member A allegedly received $6,000 from representatives of Synagro to vote in favor of the sludge contract in the Fall of 2007.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Synagro Scandal, Second Conviction in Tainted Sludge Contract

Earlier today, Detroit businessman Rayford Jackson pleaded guilty in federal court to paying more than $6,000 in bribes to an unnamed Detroit City Council member in order to influence the award a contract to Synagro. Below is a copy of the charges that were filed against Mr. Jackson in May, and recently unsealed. A copy of Mr. Jackson's plea agreement is here.

In January, DWSD formally terminated its contract with Synagro following the conviction of James Rosendall.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Oakland Macomb Interceptor Drain - Macomb County Petitions Court to Order a Repair Schedule

On June 12, 2009, Macomb County filed a motion in U.S. District Court requesting that Judge John Feikens enter an order that would establish a schedule for the repairs to the Oakland Macomb Interceptor (OMI) Drain. The details of this project were reported in an earlier post.

[Note: While a construction compliance order will make it easier for Macomb and Oakland Counties to secure State Revolving Fund (SRF) funding, it suggests that Judge John Feikens' 32 year oversight of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will not only continue, but expand northward into Oakland and Macomb Counties. Is this sort of thing a good idea? ]

Friday, June 12, 2009

Oakland Macomb Interceptor (OMI) - Repair Project Outlined at Public Hearing

At a June 10, 2009 public hearing, representatives from Oakland and Macomb County outlined a significant new project to repair and rehabilitate the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor (OMI).

The OMI is a 21 mile length of sanitary sewer that is currently owned by the City of Detroit (DWSD). Under
an agreement reached in December, 2008, and confirmed on May 12, 2009, ownership of the OMI will be transferred to Oakland and Macomb Counties. Since the OMI is the sole source of sanitary sewerage disposal for 830,000 suburban residents, and portions of the OMI have deteriorated severely since it was constructed by DWSD in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Macomb County believes that it is critically important that repairs to the OMI proceed under a court-ordered construction schedule.

The OMI Drain Repair Project is estimated to cost $160 million. The project will be competitively bid in the traditional manner (design-bid-build) under 3 to 4 separate contracts, the first of which is scheduled for bids by Fall, 2009. While a formal engineering contract has yet to be awarded, NTH Consultants is the leading candidate for the project.

The Owner for the project will be a new public authority (intercounty drain) formed under Chapter 21 of the Michigan Drain Code.

Chapter 21 of the Drain Code permits a "public corporation" (city, village, township, etc) to petition the Department of Agriculture for the establishment of intercounty drain when necessary for the public health. The costs for the drain project are set by an intercounty drainage board composed of the drain commissioner of each affected county and the director of the Department of Agriculture, and are apportioned to each public corporation based on the benefits that each public corporation receives from the project and the extent to which the public corporation contributed to the conditions making the drain necessary. Affected public corporations are assessed the costs of the project and may levy taxes for the payment of the assessment irrespective of any statutory or charter taxation limit.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cheboygan Drain Commissioner May Fight Genesee County Water Withdrawal Request

The Detroit News reports that the Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner, Daniel Lennox, has threatened a lawsuit in response to Genesee County's petition with the MDEQ to withdraw up to 85 million gallons a day from Lake Huron.

The News does not report the legal basis for the threatened lawsuit.

Maybe the Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner, who writes the blog -- "Fire Dennis Lennox" -- has too much time on his hands and should be looking for something else to do.

[Update: A June 11, 2009 editorial in the Flint Journal calls Daniel Lennox's threatened lawsuit "absurd".
"Lennox's wild-eyed claims either demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the [Great Lakes Compact], or, as Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said on Monday, the lawsuit threat is political grandstanding."

If Cheboygan County makes good on its threat, we'll post a story on the factual and legal basis of the lawsuit. ]

Thursday, June 4, 2009

DWSD Cancels Upper Rouge Tunnel Contract

The Detroit Free Press (here) and Environment News Service Newswire (here) report that on May 29, 2009, the City of Detroit (DWSD) canceled the contract for the Upper Rouge Tunnel CSO project.
"The tunnel was designed to be 30 feet in diameter. It would have run parallel the Rouge River, mostly under park space, 160 feet below ground from Pembroke Avenue and Berg to Warren Avenue and West Outer Drive. The tunnel was intended to cut the frequency of overflow events from about 50 a year to fewer than one a year, reducing the overflow from an average of 1.3 billion gallons to 250 million gallons annually." (ENS)
This story was also reported here by Water and Wastes Digest.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Genesee County Applies for Lake Huron Water Permit

Despite recent talks between DWSD and Genesee County about sharing the cost of a future water system improvements, it does not appear that Genesee County has abandoned its interest in a separate water system, as discussed in an earlier posting.

Earlier this week, the Genesee County Drain Commission applied to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to withdraw as much as 85 million gallons of water per day from Lake Huron.
"This (85 million gallon) volume would be adequate to meet the anticipated needs of Lapeer, Genesee and Sanilac counties and the city of Flint for the next several decades," said Jeff Wright, Genesee County's drain commissioner.
DWSD officials are downplaying this development, but it does call into question whether or not DWSD can or will proceed with a major expansion of its transmission capacity into Genesee County. The Flint Loop project, announced last year, would add miles to DWSD’s water transmission capacity northwards into Genesee County. However, decreased water demand has also led to lower water and sewer revenues.

[Update: There will be a 45 day public comment period, through July 15, 2009, on Genesee County's application. There is more information at the MDEQ's website. ]

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel Project Stalls

TunnelTalk reports here in an April, 2009 article that funding woes have stalled the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel project.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Settlement Agreement with Suburbs Ratified

On May 12, 2009, at a Status Conference with Judge Feikens, representatives of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, and the City of Detroit submitted executed copies of the Settlement Agreement, which was tentatively reached in December, 2008.

Judge Feikens, who is 91 years old, thanked the attorneys who have been involved in the decades-old litigation, and declared that resolution of the long-running dispute between the City and Suburbs signaled a new chapter in regional cooperation relative to water and wastewater matters.

This matter was also reported here by the Detroit Free Press.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Oakwood Pump Station and CSO Basin Project Profiled

The Oakwood Pump Station and CSO Basin Project was recently profiled in the April 20, 2009 edition of Michigan Contractor and Builder:

"A pump station and a 9-million-gallon combined sewer overflow (CSO) basin are being constructed in Southwest Detroit, MI, in order to eliminate sewer overflows during heavy rain events in the area. L. D'Agostini & Sons, Inc./Lakeshore Engineering Services, Inc. Joint Venture is the general contractor. The work is being done for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). The $154-million project began in the fall of 2007 and it will be completed in the summer of 2011.

"The combined storm and sanitary sewer water will be pumped from the pump station. The project includes six 72-inch pumps and two 54-inch pumps that discharge the water into 72-inch and 54-inch steel pipes. The water will then be treated and proceed through a series of screens to remove solids. The water is then stored in the CSO basin. As the rain event ends and the water flow is reduced, the water is released into the sewer and sent to the treatment plant. The work is part of a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) effort to clean the Rouge River.

* * *

"Subcontractors for the project include Barton Malow Concrete, of Oak Park, MI; De-Cal, Inc., of Warren, MI (mechanical); Shaw Electric, of Livonia, MI; and K&S Piling (pile driving). The engineering firm for the project is CDM, of Detroit."
Click here for the rest of the story.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

DWSD Design and Construction Contracts, List of Q2 (2009) Projects

DWSD has updated its list of Proposed Construction and Consultant Contracts for Q2 2009 here. Five of the projects listed are carryovers from DWSD's Q1 2009 List; DWSD has included six new projects, all of which are in the $5 million range.

The construction projects planned include:
  • Electric Avenue Reservoir Construction and Booster Pump Station Rehabilitation (DWS-873) (R);
  • Chemical Treatment System Modifications at the Northeast, Springwells, Lake Huron and Southwest Water Treatment Plants (DWS-867) (R);
  • East Side City of Detroit Sewer Repairs Contract for Inspection of In-Place Rehabilitation of Existing Circular and Non-Circular Sewers (DWS-876) (D/B) (New);
  • West Side City of Detroit Sewer Repairs Contract for Inspection of In-Place Rehabilitation of Existing Circular and Non-Circular Sewers (DWS-877) (D/B) (New);
  • Lake Huron Water Treatment Plant Clearwell No. 1 Baffle Walls (LH-396) (New);
  • Replacement of Existing INFI 90 Bailey Controls at Fenkell/Puritan and Hubbell/ Southfield CSO Basins (PC-761) (New);
  • Complex I and II Incinerator Improvements (D/B) (PC-774) (New);
  • Springwell Water Treatment Plant Discharge Header Pipe System Replacement (D/B) (SP-567) (R);
  • Southwest Water Treatment Plant Sludge Treatment and Waste Washwater Treatment Facilities (SW-548) (R);
  • Water System Improvements; Various Streets Throughout the City of Detroit (WS-648A) (New); and
  • Parallel 42-Inch Water Main in 24 Mile Road, from Foss Road to Fairchild Road (WS-674) (R).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

DWSD Elects to Terminate Modified Detroit River Outfall No. 2 (DRO2) Project, Contract PC-771

On March 30, 2009, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department notified the prime contractor on Contract PC-771, Vinci / Frontier-Kemper, JV, that it was electing to terminate the $299 million contract for convenience (T4C). A copy of DWSD's notice is below.

[Update: TunnelTalk has an excellent article about DWSD's decision to terminate the DRO2 contract in its April, 2009 issue.]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Detroit City Council Rejects DWSD Contract, Ferguson Bid

For the second time in less than a month, Detroit's City Council has rejected a contract bid submitted by Ferguson Enterprises and approved by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The Detroit Free Press reports (here) -- On March 24, 2009, City Council voted 4-3 to reject a $2.2 million contract bid submitted by Ferguson Enterprises. Earlier this month, City Council voted to reject a $284,000 contract bid by the same company. That the FBI served a search warrant on Ferguson Enterprises and an affiliated company, Xcel Construction, on January 15, 2009 may have influenced the Council's vote. Bobby Ferguson is also widely reported to have had close ties with former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Friday, March 20, 2009

DWSD Director Responds to Report about Water Main Leaks

DWSD Interim Director Pam Turner responded today (here) in a Letter to the Editor in the Detroit Press to earlier reports about Detroit's trouble water mains --

In response to the March 2 article "Water mains are a ticking time bomb": For starters, the $23-million cost for unaccounted water is erroneous. The cost to ratepayers for the issue referenced by the article is perhaps 10% of that figure, or less than 1% of the total revenue of the DWSD water system.

Further, the article stated that most of the region's water problems are tied to Detroit's aging water system. Of the 12,500 miles of water infrastructure in southeast Michigan, only 3,500 miles of pipe -- most of which is in the city of Detroit -- are owned and maintained by DWSD. The remainder is local infrastructure owned and maintained by individual communities.

Detroit residents and businesses alone are responsible for the cost of maintaining their local distribution system. This cost of $25 million-$30 million a year for water line replacement comes solely from Detroit retail water rates and is not a cost charged to any suburban wholesale customer community. Wholesale rates are a separate structure and cannot be used to finance work being done solely for retail customers in Detroit.

The primary reasons for annual water and sewer rate increases are the cost of capital improvement projects, many of which are federally mandated. These mandates -- on the wastewater side -- have no associated federal grant or loan dollars, and the costs are borne by the communities served. Additionally, the recent financial crisis in the bond market has significantly raised the cost of debt service for the bonds financing our capital improvements. The impact of these factors on our rates is outlined in Web-posted presentations and related material shared with the wholesale customer communities and available on the 2009-10 rate season schedule found at

"Unaccounted-for water" is a term with differing meanings in its application to rate-making. The water industry has been moving to more precise terminology in recent years and has used "non-revenue water" to refer to such situations as hydrant use, inaccurate metering and inaccurate pumping figures. "Lost water" has been used to describe water lost as the result of water main breaks and transmission loss in the water system. Based on an ongoing study of the DWSD system, the figure for lost water is more accurately reflected at 9% of total system production, as recently reported to the Board of Water Commissioners at its February business meeting.

DWSD remains committed to providing its 4.3 million customers with safe, reliable drinking water and responsible wastewater collection and treatment at affordable costs that place it as the third lowest of the nation's 20 largest municipal systems for water rates and eighth lowest for combined water and sewer rates.

Pamela Turner
Interim Director,
Detroit Water
and Sewerage Department

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

DWSD, Detroit Seek to Remarket Debt

The Bond Buyer reports (here) "Detroit today [March 17, 2009] will begin to remarket $120 million of variable-rate, A-rated water revenue debt into a fixed-rate structure - the first time the city has entered the market since all three rating agencies downgraded its general obligation debt into junk-bond territory. "

The City will begin remarketing another $300 million of varible-rate sewer debt into fixed-rate debt within two weeks.

The article notes that most of the bonds are bank bonds, and that Detroit enters the market under a certain amount of "liquidity pressure." Detroit must remarket these bonds before April 1, 2009 or face the start of an accelerated five-year amortization.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

DWSD, Genesee County Discuss Sharing Cost of Water System Improvements

Reprinted with Permission from Michigan Construction News

Dragline - Editorial Comment & News Analysis

March 13, 2009
By Guy Snyder

Keeping Things Fair

Good drinking water at a reasonable price has been fundamental for civilization for thousands of years. Arguably water, sewage control, and roads were the underpinnings of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately for the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department there are signs its regional system is beginning to crumble. This week in Flint its representatives worked hard to patch things up but we suspect the numbers aren’t in their favor.

* * *

Drops in the Barrel

Meetings were held this week between Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright and officials from the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department. They focused on the future of the county’s drinking water, as well as the city of Flint’s. There’s been considerable displeasure expressed about DW&SD water and sewage rates, especially for its outlying communities. If you recall, even Mr. Wright complained last fall about a then newly instituted 15% price hike.

This time around the DW&SD has come up with a deal. If Genesee County will pay part of the construction cost of additional water supply lines, it will be given “special status.” This would qualify it for a major price cut — possibly as much as 50% — for water.

Yesterday the drain commissioner’s office reported it was still crunching the deal’s numbers. Even if they add up to Genesee County’s favor today, we still think the DW&SD’s critics have been making valid arguments. In the long run it may well be in the county’s best interest to opt out and build a modern water supply system of its own.

In our November 18, 2008, Dragline, we discussed Mr. Wright partnering with John P. McCulloch, water resources commissioner for Oakland County, to create a regional water planning group called the Karegnondi Water Authority. Its mission has been to investigate another water system that would not also serve Genesee and Oakland counties, along with the city of Flint, but Macomb and Lapeer counties as well.

A consultant was hired last fall but not named. It still hasn’t been named. The mystery firm was supposed to have delivered a report a couple of months ago. But we haven’t seen it. Our latest research indicates a final draft is slated for release next week. Okay, we’ll look for it. Surprisingly, the Karengnondi Water Authority has yet to establish a web site. (Does it even have a staff?) Must be the final draft is to appear on Mr. Wright’s web site. Or would it be Mr. McCulloch’s?

Don’t you love governmental transparency?

Even so, back in November the general news media was broadcasting a project estimate of $350 million for the new water supply system. The comments came anonymously from the usual “government sources.” The figure was supposed to cover a water treatment plant, 60 miles of water transmission tunnel and main, and related support facilities. The system would be designed to draw as much as 150 million gallons per day.

Genesee County had already purchased a 230 acre site with a 700 foot long shoreline on Lake Huron, north of Fisher Road, in Sanilac County. The properly had formerly been owned by Detroit Edison.

This week no money has been mentioned about what Genesee County would pay for the DW&SD’s new water supply lines. Still, the cost of the entire proposed system has been pegged at $750 million. Presumably the county would have to pay for the portion that traverses Genesee County. It wouldn’t surprise us, though, if it turned out to be a capital investment close to the entire price of a new, independent system.

If it is, participation by Mr. Wright would require a deeper plunge into Genesee County’s pocket. That’s because the cost of the Karengnondi Water Authority system mentioned above would be split by a minimum of four counties. Perhaps even five ways, if the city of Flint is included.

The decision’s not up to us. But even without looking at the DW&SD’s “offer,” if we were the Genesee County Drain Commissioner we’d be strongly motivated to reject it.

The manner in which the deal’s being presented by the general news media arouses suspicion. What may seem a favorable break on water rates today could disappear after the new DW&SD water lines are finally in the ground. We also suspect Mr. Wright and the city of Flint will find greater respect for their concerns from the Karegnondi Water Authority than they currently do from the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners.

We mentioned last fall’s 15% increase. In late January of this year the water commissioners approved wholesale rate increases averaging 8.9% for water and 2.4% for sewage for its suburban customers, including Mr. Wright. The increases are to take effect on July 1st if they win the approval of the Detroit City Council. The council was supposed to take them up yesterday but our deadline for this column closed before we could find out if it did.

In case you missed our explanation last fall, Karegnondi was the name the Petan Indians gave to Lake Huron. It was used in the first known comprehensive map of Michigan and its Great Lakes, drawn in 1656 by Nicholas Sanson, the royal geographer of France.

Michigan Construction News is published by Guy Snyder (Snytco, Inc.) every Tuesday and Friday, and provides news about upcoming construction projects, and an editorial called the "Dragline." A summary of each edition is also available to those who subscribe. Michigan Construction News is supported by advertisers and by "Friends of Michigan Construction News." I look forward to reading Guy Snyder's twice-weekly newsletter, and encourage you to read and support this valuable news resource. Click here for more information about becoming a supporter of Michigan Construction News. - Peter Cavanaugh

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Another Water Main Break Along I-96

The Detroit Free Press reports here, and the Detroit News reports here that a 48" water main broke along the I-96 service drive in Redford Township on Saturday [March 7, 2009], and flooded a 2-mile stretch of the freeway.

George Ellenwood, a spokesman for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD), said I-96 was reopened by noon, but Schoolcraft will remain closed between Beech Daly and Inkster until repairs are completed early this week. Excavating crews were at the scene and expected to work throughout the weekend.

The immediate cause of the break was not known, although it cold be part of a pattern of breaks related to DWSD's aging infrastructure. In July, 2007, portions of the same water main that broke Saturday broke near Livonia, and flooded I-96.

Saturday's water main break also comes less than a week after the Detroit Free Press published an article (here) breathlessly entitled that "Water Mains are a Ticking Time Bomb" which noted that --

"Brittle and badly aging water pipes are lurking beneath many metro Detroit communities and will cost taxpayers billions of dollars to repair or replace over the next decade."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Genesee County Considering Alternatives to DWSD Water Supply

The Flint News reports today that Genesee County is still studying alternatives to buying water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), even as County officials continue negotiations on a possible new 30 year contract. The principal alternative would be the construction of a separate water treatment plant, which would include placing miles of new pipeline to Lake Huron.

"County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright and a spokesman for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department confirmed Friday they have been and will continue talking March 10 about renewing what's been an unhappy marriage -- even as the idea of water independence gets all the attention."
"A decision has to be made by August as far as I'm concerned," said Wright, who said there's at least a 50-50 chance the county will break from Detroit and build the water line at a cost of more than $300 million.
Genesee County is one of a number of counties which are studying alternatives to buying their drinking water from the City of Detroit. Meanwhile, DWSD is proceeding with plans to add capacity to its system. The Flint Loop and North Oakland Transmission System (NOTS), would add miles of additional water main and redundancy to DWSD's drinking water transmission system.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Upper Rouge CSO (North) Tunnel, Bids Canceled

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has canceled plans to bid the Upper Rouge CSO (North) Tunnel (PC-763). Addendum No. 5, dated February 23, 2009, but received yesterday by plan holders, advised bidders that DWSD was not going to be taking bids on the project at this time. There was no official explanation offered by DWSD for cancellation of the North Tunnel.

Work will continue, however, on the Upper Rouge CSO (South) Tunnel (PC-764), which was awarded to Kenny/Obayashi, JV in September (reported here).

The Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel project is a requirement of the Department's NPDES Permit, and is subject the Second Amended Consent Decree in the EPA Litigation.

[Update: On March 18, 2009, McGraw Hill Dodge Reports indicated that this project was on hold until 2014. ]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Court Approves $1 Million Extension for Oversight Contract of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department

On February 24, 2009, U.S. District Judge John Feikens approved a one-year extension of Infrastructure Management Group's contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The contract is for a not to exceed (NTE) amount of $1 million and includes a 10% reduction in the hourly fees IMG charges the Department. Among its services, IMG is charged with reviewing all DWSD contracts in excess of $500,000.

IMG was originally hired in November, 2002 at the direction of Judge John Feikens, who has had superintending control over the Department since 1977.
Order Approving IMG Contract (Feb 24, 2009)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mayor Pledges Overhaul of City, DWSD Contracting Practices

During his State of the City address last night, Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. announced a new initiative aimed at reforming the City’s contracting practices. As reported by the Detroit Free Press (here) –

“In Cockrel’s first State of the City speech -- given two weeks before the mayoral primary election in which he is a candidate -- he said he will assign Deputy Mayor Saul Green and others to research a method of ensuring that vendors win contracts on their merits.”
“They should not get contracts because of who they know or who they're related to, and they should not be rewarded for political donations or favors,” Cockrel said, generating applause.. “As long as I'm mayor, pay-to-play is history in the City of Detroit.”
Mayor Cockrel indicated that contracting reforms would begin with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

[Note: I’ll provide more information on this subject when it becomes available.]

Monday, February 2, 2009

Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (North) Bid Date Extended (Again)

The bid date for the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (North) (PC-763) has been extended a second time to Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. from February 12th. Bids will be opened in Room 1008, Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Synagro, City of Detroit Agree to Void Tainted Contract

Within days of James Rosendall's guilty plea in federal court to bribery charges (reported here), Synagro Technologies and the City of Detroit have reached an agreement to terminate the $1.2 billion sludge contract at the center of a still-unfolding public corruption scandal.

As outlined in a DWSD Press Release (here) and as reported by the Detroit Free Press on January 29, 2009:

"City officials called Synagro President Robert Boucher this morning and asked if Synagro would agree to terminate the contract. Boucher immediately accepted, understanding the taint that former Synagro vice president James Rosendall’s guilty plea put on the deal.

“I think they recognized that the contract could not be allowed to continue,” Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. said. “If we have a contract that has been let and approved by the City of Detroit and we have a representative … who has pled guilty in a court of law to paying bribes, the contract at least on the surface obviously appears to be tainted.”
"Darci McConnell, a spokesperson for Synagro, issued a statement on behalf of the company, expressing its disappointment.

“We reached this mutual decision with the city because it was appropriate under the circumstances,” she said. “We at Synagro take our, legal, ethical and environmental obligations seriously, and we are confident that the controls we have in place will ensure that inappropriate behavior will not be repeated.”
"Synagro’s agreement to terminate the contract without a fight saves the city from what would have been a costly legal fight to void the contract."

Click here for the rest of the story

This story is reported by the Detroit Free Press (here and here).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

DWSD Board of Water Commissioners Approves Proposed Settlement

On January 28, 2009, the DWSD Board of Water Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a landmark settlement (reported here) with its suburban customers. The agreement must also be ratified by Detroit City Council, where questions about the sale of the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor (OMI) are likely to be raised. Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties also must ratify the agreement. Attorneys representing these counties reportedly told the Court at a hearing in December that they would recommend the terms of the settlement to their respective clients.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Upcoming (2009) Design and Construction Projects Identified by DWSD

DWSD has published its list of Proposed Construction and Consultant Contracts for Q1 2009 here. This list includes 15 projects that DWSD expects to advertise for bids between January and March, 2009. Most of the proposed contracts (9/15) are expected to be in excess of $5 million.

The construction projects planned include:
  • Electric Avenue Reservoir Construction and Booster Pump Station Rehabilitation (DWS-873);
  • Chemical Treatment System Modifications at the Northeast, Springwells, Lake Huron and Southwest Water Treatment Plants (DWS-867);
  • Springwell Water Treatment Plant Discharge Header Pipe System Replacement (D/B) (SP-567);
  • Southwest Water Treatment Plant Sludge Treatment and Waste Washwater Treatment Facilities (SW-548); and
  • Parallel 42-Inch Water Main in 24 Mile Road, from Foss Road to Fairchild Road (WS-674).