Work is currently proceeding at numerous points along the $274 million pipeline, including on a barge above the intake site in Lake Huron. There are tradespeople at work building a pump station near the lakeshore, another building a new pump station at Brown City, and more are scattered about on crews along back-roads installing the pipeline through Sanilac, Lapeer and Genesee counties. Genesee County Drain Commission Jeff Wright, who is also the CEO of the Karegnondi Water Authority, said coming to a consensus on a plan to build the $274 million pipeline was "really an easy decision." Flint had been getting its water from the City of Detroit, about 60 miles south, through aging, leaky infrastructure. And, water costs rose in double-digits each year for the past 12 years.
"Plus we're at the end of the their pipeline," Wright said. "We had 17 different boil water alerts or shutdowns from 2003 to 2011. It's an aging system, and reliability is a real factor. We decided we could own and operate our own system, and it would be much less expensive." He estimated the new system will save the region a minimum of $100 million over the next 28 years. "Karegnondi" is a Native American term meaning "Big Water." The pipeline will supply water to more than 2,400 square miles along Michigan's Interstate 69 corridor, drawing from Lake Huron at a rate of up to 85 million gallons per day. The communities that will be served include the City of Flint, City of Lapeer, and counties of Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac. The system will serve a population of 275,000, with a capacity for about 600,000.
Wade Trim, with an office in Flint, is coordinating the project. There are no less than 14 different construction contracts associated with the pipeline work, including the Lake Pump Station in Burchville Twp., the Intermediate Pump Station in Brown City, and six different pipe installation contracts. Wright said project planners purposely broke up the contracts in order to give smaller companies the opportunity to get bonding for the jobs. "One of the things we have tried to do is provide, as much as possible, an opportunity for local engineering and construction firms to bid," Wright said. "We have also put prevailing wage and local hiring incentives into the contracts." Wright said the pipeline is being installed in public right-of-ways wherever possible, and getting easements has not been a problem. Most pipe diameters in the new system range from 72 inches at the intake, down to 66 inches then to 36 inches. The circumference and compositions of the pipe materials vary depending on location. Much of the pipe installation will include 25 miles of 66-inch diameter spiral weld pipe, another 26 miles of 60-inch spiral weld pipe, and 15 miles of 36-inch ductile iron pipe. Closest to the lakeshore, the pipe is mostly concrete-lined ductile iron, installed in 50-foot sections weighing about 19,200 lbs. each. Pipes are joined end-to-end at their male-female "bell and spigots." The sections are welded together inside, and the exterior joint is made water-tight with a heat-wrapped mastic, which is then encased in concrete. Pipes are generally buried 13-15 feet.
"There's a little learning curve on the whole process; this kind of project is new to the area," said Jim Hess, senior civil designer AECOM, which is handling the piping installation for a section 12 miles west of the lakeshore pump station. Hess said crews are getting better at the installation, but this spring and early summer's wet weather has been a drag. And the heavy clay soil they're encountering doesn't allow rain water to drain quickly. "Lately every time we turn around we get a major storm," he said. "It doesn't help." At the Burchville Twp. pumping station, located off the lake about 15 miles north of Port Huron, the brick structure is in place and most of the work late last month was focused on the mechanical fixtures inside. The building will contain four 859 horsepower pumps rated at 20,833 gallons each. A small electrical substation on site provides the power feed. Overseeing this portion of the project is L D'Agostini & Sons Inc. "We've made a real effort to try to stay on top of everything, and it has really gone well out here" said Project Engineer Alan Hanna. "The trades have been great."
About 15 miles west at the system's pump station going up in Brown City, Project Supt. Ryan Coy of general contractor E.L. Construction Group reported similar difficulties with the frequent rains. In addition to installing pumps and an electrical substation, they're building a seven million gallon retention tank on site. "We have battled with the rain a bit, but we have a lot of work available to keep our subs going," Coy said. "This is actually a pretty neat project, you definitely don't see something like this being built every day." SECTION BY SECTION, some 80 miles of Karegnondi Pipeline is being placed in various areas in the lower Thumb north of I-69 from the Lake Huron shore to Flint. This section is located at Fisher & Bricker roads in Sanilac County, near Yale. WE ASKED plumbers Brad Daugherty and John Winn to crawl out of this 48-inch “Flowmeter” pipe at the Brown City Pump Station to have their picture taken. The Local 98 members are working for J.F. Cavanaugh.