Water Infrastructure 101

Last week, Jim Nash, our County Water Resources Commissioner, gave a presentation at Berkley Public Library on Water Infrastructure.

For those that were unable to attend, he shared his slides with me so I can share them with you. Click here to access them.

The slides make a lot more sense if you were able to attend the presentation, but they still contain valuable information. I recommend attendance at a future event if you can.

Below are couple of points that were made that are not on the slides.

The state is requiring cities to replace all lead service lines, even though the science does not support the need to do this so long as water supplier follows best practices. (In Flint, they ignored all expert advice which destroyed the protective coating on the lead lines, thus poisoning their residents.) In Pontiac, it is going to cost about $7,500 per lead service line to replace. Berkley and other cities in the area will soon be seeing similar bills over the next 20 years.

I asked if there are long term plans by the county to separate combined sewers in the region. The answer is no. It is estimated by the county it would cost $3 billion to separate the combined sewers just for the drain system that serves us. Further, the storm water is currently treated, and by separating the storm water, it would either be discharged into the lake without any treatment, or it would increase operational costs significantly to treat both the storm water and sewage.

I'm gathering data to make a rough order estimate of what it would cost each household to separate our combined sewers. However, I feel strongly the most cost effective solution available is for each home to install a backflow preventer. This is a device which allows water and sewage to flow out from the house, but prevents it from flowing back into the house from the sewer pipes. While this can cost several thousand dollars to install, I think it is better solution. Unfortunately, state law prohibits cities from just buying and installing these for everyone.