City council must decide how much sewer pipe to repair

As St. Louis’s sewer system upgrades continue, city officials must decide soon if they wish to proceed with all or part of rehabilitating 23,400 feet of sanitary sewer pipe that is most in need of replacement or repair.

That figure represents 20 percent of the 22 miles of sanitary sewer pipe in St. Louis. The dilapidated pipe is located all over the city. If you live within the city limits you are probably within one block of a stretch of sewer pipe in need of repair or replacement.

The Spicer Group, a Saginaw civil engineering firm, recommends repairing sewer pipe with Cured In Place Pipe (CIPP), a lining that goes into an existing pipe as something like cloth and is hardened by hot water to become solid, becoming a pipe within a pipe.

CIPP liners can be installed without digging up and replacing pipe, but the cost is about the same. The chief advantage is that the ground, or in many cases roads and sidewalk, needn’t be disturbed.

CIPP sewer linings have been in use since 1971 and have a life expectancy of more than 50 years.


Spicer Group Project Manager Max Cleaver told city council Tuesday that lining the whole 23,400 feet of sewer pipe “in general, fits with our capital improvement plan’s financial schedule.”

However, he added, “To some degree it’s going to be limited by how much of a budget we can stomach for doing the lining for the first couple years, but I would suspect it may get bonded out.”

The city has budgeted about $1.1 million for this phase of the operation, but lining 23,400 feet of pipe will cost more than that. That’s where municipal bonds would come in, if city council elects to do more than $1.1 million would cover.

Last month the city paid $50,000 to line 250 feet of pipe between the high school football field and the Pine River, but that is not a good indicator for how much the recommended larger job will cost, Cleaver said. “Mobilization is typically a fixed fee which means that it is a smaller percentage of the cost of large project,” he wrote in an email. “Also, the lining of the 250 feet you mentioned required bypass pumping. Pumping will be required for some pipes but it will not be required for all pipes in the lining project.”

Liner install

CIPP sewer lining being installed last month.

The CIPP linings would reduce the amount of ground water getting into the sanitary sewer and taxing the treatment plant. And reducing leakage would save money, as planned pumping station upgrades would be less costly, Cleaver said.

Although the city’s capital improvement plan calls for replacing the Union Street pumping station at the east end of the high school football field, talk at Tuesday’s meeting was all about a proposed Clinton Street pumping station that represents “the possibility of a different approach,” said City Manager Kurt Giles in an email.

Asked where exactly a Clinton Street pumping station would be built, Giles said, “The engineering analysis would determine possible sites.”

But the possible Clinton Street pumping station would likely affect St. Louis Schools, as Giles said at Tuesday’s meeting, “It’s important for us to communicate with the schools where we’re going on this.”

Should the Clinton Street pumping station be built, it would move wastewater collected south of the Pine River north to the wastewater treatment plant (at Union and Prospect) through a new pipe that goes under the river and across the athletic complex and middle school area to the treatment plant, Giles said.

However, Giles added, “It may be too early to start referring to it as a ‘Clinton Street Pump Station’ since it is only a concept.”

All of this new sewer work is the result of state law that has cities all over Michigan trying to figure out how they will pay for sanitary sewer repair and replacement.

The process was kicked off with a $1 million grant to St. Louis (from state government), but the total cost of upgrades will be much more than that, and St. Louis property owners are expected to pay for it.

This is partly why a new water and sewer billing plan calls for raising rates for water and sewer use by 10 percent a year for the next seven years, which would just about double what St. Louis homeowners now pay for water and sewer. City council is expected to vote in March or April to approve the first 10 percent increase, which would take effect in July.

Although reducing leakage that lets rain water and melting snow intermingle with wastewater in need of treatment is the immediate goal, long term plans also call for cutting sanitary sewer connections to downspouts, footing drains and sump pumps in houses all over the city.

“The city may desire to have Spicer assist with gathering information from residents regarding sump pump connections to sanitary sewer system,” wrote Spicer Group President Donald Scherzer. “This can be accomplished with a mailer, door-to-door survey, or both.”

This is a touchy subject because the city can’t use our tax dollars to remove illegal connections to sanitary sewer. Each individual property owner must pay for the work.

“As this separation would be considered a private responsibility, the city cannot spend public money on private property or for private repairs,” Public Services Director Keith Risdon said.

However, state government has a low interest loan program called the Strategic Water Quality Initiatives Fund that was created to help pay for sewer separation work on private property. “The city is currently looking into this type of private assistance as a consideration for residents as we move forward in sanitary sewer projects,” Risdon said.


If you found this article helpful, please tell friends and neighbors about the St. Louis Sentinel. The Morning Sun and Gratiot County Herald only cover St. Louis superficially, whereas the Sentinel’s coverage is comprehensive and written by a St. Louis resident.


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