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Red Run and Kuhn Drain project from 1990’s

Kuhn Drain Project

Oakland County – In 1994 the popular Metropolitan Beach in Macomb County located on Lake St. Clair was closed most of the summer due to regular and persistent findings of high levels of Escherichia Coliform (E. Coli) bacteria. Although the cause of these persistent problems with E. Coli bacteria was not conclusively identified, it had been alleged some of this pollution could be contributed to Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) coming from the Red Run Drain.

The Federal Clean Water Act of 1977 mandates that all discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States must be authorized by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The Southeastern Oakland County Sewer District System (SOCSDS) Twelve Towns Retention/Treatment Facility (RTF) as originally designed was authorized to discharge treated combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Red Run Drain which is a tributary to the Clinton River that ultimately flows to Lake St. Clair, an international waterway. This 2.2 mile-long RTF was one of the first CSO control projects constructed in the country. When completed in 1973, it was considered “state of the art”.  Time, however, exposed many of its deficiencies.  While the storage volume of the facility approaches the standards now accepted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the configuration was insufficient to protect the environment.  Rainfall events that exceed 1/2 to 3/4 inches in depth can generate large overflow volumes.  Due to the mixing of sanitary and storm water, this discharge, or “overflow” from a combined sewer system is inevitably contaminated with human, commercial and industrial wastes. The CSOs that are discharged from Twelve Towns RTF were though to have contributed to the high levels of E. Coli found at Metropolitan Beach in 1994.

As pressure was exerted to address these deficiencies, it is not surprising that the elected officials within the drainage district wanted to “solve the problem once and for all.” Thus the communities embarked on a project now known as the George W. Kuhn Drainage Improvements Projects. Through the cooperative effort between the Oakland County Drain Commissioner and the 14 communities that now make up the George W. Kuhn Drainage District, a mutually agreeable program was developed to upgrade the RTF to improve the water quality of the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair.

Improvements to the Twelve Towns RTF included 15 projects under 5 separate contracts.

All of the projects were incorporated into the facility’s NPDES permit. The estimated project cost for these 15 projects is nearly $144 million.

The engineering firm of Nowak & Fraus prepared the plans and specifications for Contract One of the 5 contracts. Their estimated cost of construction was $21,476,076.00. Ric-Man Construction, Inc., was awarded Contract One for the bid amount of $12,966,949.00.

Contract One of the new drainage improvement project dealt specifically with removing and rerouting storm water inflow from the Twelve Towns RTF, thus reducing the frequency of overflow of sewage to the Red Run Drain. Construction of Contract One started in October of 2000 with final construction to be completed in July of 2002. The project consisted of the installation of two new storm drains that run parallel to the RTF. These two parallel drains are known as the North and South Drain.

Construction of the North Drain included installation of approximately 9,600 linear feet of main line pipe ranging in size from 78-inch to 126-inch diameter reinforced concrete pipe. Construction of the South Drain included approximately 8,100 linear feet of main line pipe ranging in size from 66-inch to 126-inch diameter reinforced concrete pipe. The Premarc Corporation was chosen as the preferred supplier for this project. When Premarc opened their new manufacturing facility in Clarkston, Michigan, in the fall of 2000, they became the only company in Michigan, capable of manufacturing large diameter dry cast concrete pipe. By being able to manufacture dry cast pipe, Premarc was able to produce the large diameter pipe in a more timely manner and ensure on-time deliveries with no threat of project delay.

Contract One began at Dequindre Road north of 13 Mile Road and proceeded southwesterly crossing 13 Mile Road and ending west of the Sports Village Facility south of John R. Road. Numerous impediments were encountered during construction of the new North and South Drain. Underground utilities made it time consuming to install the large diameter concrete pipe. Additional time and energy had to be spent “snaking” the pipe around the utilities so that service was not disrupted to the numerous customers in the area.

A considerable amount of effort was employed to coordinate the work activities with the local communities to minimize disruptions to businesses and residences along the project route. In an effort to limit the impact on local traffic, construction through the road crossings of 13 Mile Road and John R. Road were performed during the weekend hours. Both roads were completely shut down and traffic rerouted around the construction area over the weekend periods.

Coordination was crucial during the construction around the Red Oaks Wave Pool. While the North Drain followed the property line of the Wave Pool complex, the South Drain went directly through the parking lots of the facility. Work on this portion of the project was completed during the fall and winter months to ensure the opening of the complex in the spring as the weather turned warm.

Staging of excavated soils was another impediment that had to be overcome. Due to lack of room, and fear damaging the existing RTF, it was determined soils from the excavation of the new storm lines could not be placed on or near the RTF. Through the teamwork of all parties involved, it was determined all construction spoils would be staged at the Red Oaks Golf Course. Since construction was to proceed through the golf, in an innovative move, Jerry Matthews of Natural Course Design in Lansing was hired to use the soils from construction to redesign and update the existing golf course. When the newly restored Red Oaks Golf Course opens in the spring of 2004, golfers will face a new and more challenging course produced through the spoils of the George W. Kuhn Drain project.

Concern arose from the public regarding the soils that were being excavated in the Red Oaks Golf Course. A portion of the golf course covered and area that was once utilized as a landfill and incinerator. In conjunction with the MDEQ, the Oakland County Drain Office held numerous public meetings of informing and educating the public on the monitoring and dust suppression programs which were in use during this portion of the project. These meetings were crucial in relieving the fears of the local public regarding the excavation of this site.

Forty-two major storm drains were disconnected from the RTF and reconnected to the North and South Drains. Incoming storms were a concern for Ric-Man Construction during this portion of the project. A warning system was set up during construction that sounded when rainstorms were approaching. This allowed Ric-Man time to get their employee’s out of the RTF before the rain fell, thus preventing possible drowning in the event of a heavy rainfall.

When construction was completed in July of 2002, the Oakland County Drain Commissioner’s Office provided a new storm drain to it’s citizens which intercepted the storm water from the drainage district and transported it directly to the Red Run Drain near the RTF outlet. Through teamwork, dedication and determination, they insured healthy water quality within the Clinton River and Lake St Clair for years to come.

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