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Bessemer council gets update on SAW program progress


November 16, 2018


Bessemer — Members of the Bessemer City Council met Monday evening for a special informational session on progress made on the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater Program through the state Department of Environmental Quality.

DEQ engineers Kelly Heidbrier and Ashley Hendricks provided a summary of the SAW program, made possible by a combined $827,350 in grants for which the city applied in 2013.

According to Heidbrier, the state’s intent has been to encourage cities “to track assets better” and plan more effectively.

He said technology developed in recent years has made it easier to do that. Time was, he added, when even specialists inspecting city pipes were limited in part by asking department of public works staff what problems they suspected.

Now, he said, engineers for the SAW grant use a combination of GPS, closed-circuit television and physical inspection to search as much as possible of the city’s several dozen combined miles of sanitary sewer and storm pipes.

Heidbrier said engineers televised as much as possible of the city’s pipes, but conceded some pipes were not possible to access, some were collapsed, some did not meet age restrictions for televising, and some could not be done due to budget restrictions.

For all those reasons, he said engineers prioritized recommendations of Neal Nelson, lead man of the city’s DPW.

A repeated key issue noted by Heidbrier was infiltration, or unwelcome water and fluids seeping into pipes via cracks. He noted while some cracks are more serious than others, any crack can result in infiltration.

Hendricks said 200,000 gallons per day travel through the city’s treatment system, which is a lagoon, and she estimated half of it is due to infiltration.

According to Heidbrier, obstructions are another issue in reducing flow. He said “a few small rocks” can result in gathering more and more detritus, until a substantial solid mass starts diminishing efficient fluid movement.

Overall, he estimated $34 million as the replacement value of the city’s entire system.

In a Thursday phone call, city clerk-treasurer James Trudgeon referred accordingly to the $21 million state grant and loan package that the city just announced receiving from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program on Nov. 5.

“That should take care of a good chunk of the infiltration problems,” he said, adding the funds will facilitate replacement of bad pipes and joints.

In relation to the new funds, Trudgeon said city officials now wish to gather qualifications from various engineering firms to see how they compare to C2ae, an engineering firm which is associated with Bessemer’s current, separate RDA grant work.

“Before we can move forward on this huge (new) agreement, we have to get design work done,” said Trudgeon, clarifying “a lot of work” must be done before the actual manual labor.

He said C2ae, which has an office in Escanaba, also will remain under consideration for the new RDA funds. “They have so much experience with our system,” he said.

Trudgeon also acknowledged the frustration of wet weather and other factors having impeded the progress of the current grant work, which will leave several streets unpaved until next year.

In anticipating the spring of 2019, however, he concluded of contractors, “Once the snow goes and they finish up, it’ll be nice.”


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