Archived Story

Sewage system to be upgraded

Published 12:00am Thursday, November 14, 2013

While the job of maintaining Dowagiac’s sewage pipes and facilities may still be considered a “dirty” one, it may be soon receiving a clean, digitally-enhanced facelift.

The Dowagiac City Commission recently approved the city’s application for a $993,000 grant from the State of Michigan that would go toward updates to the city’s sewer management system. The grant will provide the city with the necessary funding to completely digitize their current system, which currently operates with a combination of computerized and traditional paper records.

“This new system would allow us to move much more quickly on some of these assessment management development than we have been able to,” said Dowagiac City Manager Kevin Anderson. “To be able to get that influx of cash, to be able to buy the software and hardware, to be able to train employees quickly, over a short period of time, would help tremendously.”

The city plans to use the funds in a number of different ways. They will first conduct an inspection of its current sewage pipelines and facilities, to determine any damage to them and where best to repair them. To do so, the city will contract out the work to an external engineering firm, who will utilize a combination of video and GPS to pinpoint the locations where isolated repairs are needed.

“We have just recently purchased a camera truck that will allow us to do much of the televising of lines ourselves,” Anderson said. “We will clean those lines ourselves, and there will be grant money there to support those efforts.”

In addition, the grant money will go toward the planning and creation of a new asset management system, which will allow the city to create a computerized database of its pipes, valves, pumps and lift stations. Though the city will have to pay for the necessary hardware, software and employee training to implement it, the new system will make tracking problems much easier.

“It’s like on your car,” Anderson said. “On newer cars a message will pop up and tell it’s time for an oil change. It will be like that type of thing, where messages will pop up reminding us that it’s time to do maintenance on this pump.”

This should be an improvement over the current system, where equipment issues are often only discovered after they become problematic.

“That’s where the real value is to the citizens and customers will be,” Anderson said. “We should be much more proactive to problem spots in our pipes.”

One of the conditions the state is mandating with the grant money is that each of the communities receiving the funds must reevaluate their current sewage rates. However, Anderson said these numbers will likely little, if any, increase from their current values.

In addition to the first round of grant money, the city plans on applying for an additional round of funding to the tune of around $350,000 to $400,000 to help cover any additional costs. The State of Michigan could make the decision to approve Dowagiac’s application by as soon as next month.


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