Augusta Township facing over $1 million in repairs to water system
A new report presented to the Augusta Township Board of Trustees outlines several issues that could necessitate more than $1 million in repairs to the township's water system.
Taxpayers could end up on the hook for those repairs.
The Board of Trustees received the report at their October 23 meeting. No action was taken. The board’s utility advisory committee must meet again to discuss how to fix the issues. One meeting was already held, but there are questions as to whether it followed the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Among the problems are a decayed “poly pig” that was affecting water pressure; a decaying water main that could cost $1 million to replace; and eight pipes feeding homes off the main water line that weren’t buried far enough underground and are now exposed. Those pipes are likely to freeze and break when winter sets in.
The most serious issue is the water main break on Tuttle Hill Road between Torrey and Liss roads. It is the fourth break in the last 18 months and officials are trying to determine the cause.
The pipe was installed in 1994 and has an expected lifespan of 40 years.
“We’re not sure why that particular section of pipe keeps breaking,” Trustee Mike King said. “We don’t know if the issue is with the pipe itself, with the soil in that particular location or what’s causing degradation to the pipe.”
Township trustees don’t believe there are any chemicals in the soil that would cause the pipe to prematurely degrade. A sample of the pipe was sent to the pipe manufacturer, Griffin Pipe Products, and officials expected the company to do an analysis to see why the pipe is failing.
Instead, a Griffin representative sent back a short letter explaining that there was corrosion, which several board members said was simply stating the obvious.
If there is a faulty pipe, then Griffin should be held responsible, Trustee Bill Tobler said. King agreed, but said he expected Griffin would not take responsibility for the pipe, and that could lead to a costly legal battle.
Wade Trim, a civil engineering company hired to maintain and monitor the township’s water system, found the “poly pig” while performing maintenance on and repairing the township’s fire hydrants. Jason Karmol, a Wade Trim representative, wrote in the report that its workers made a “startling discovery” when opening a hydrant at the corner of Willow and Tuttle Hill roads.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
“As we opened the hydrant valve, a large, sponge-like mass was ejected from the water main,” Karmol wrote.
The 18-inch, bullet-shaped polyurethane “pig” is used when water systems are constructed. They are placed in one end of a water line and pushed through the line to scour the pipes free of any dirt lodged inside.
The “pig” had probably been in the line for nearly 20 years, Karmol wrote.
“It became deformed as it passed through the hydrant valve, and that is why it was not easily recognized,” he said. “This obstruction would account for the low flow that we observed from the hydrant.”
Tobler questioned why the township’s previous utility maintenance company, UMS, hadn’t discovered the pig, since it was allegedly performing fire hydrant maintenance. The fire department would have found there was no pressure coming from the hydrant had firefighters tapped into it in an emergency.
In a location nearby, Washtenaw County Drain Commission workers cleaning ditches on Talladay Road between Tuttle Hill and Whittaker roads exposed service leads leading to homes in the area.
The pipes are typically buried at least four feet deep, but appear to have been buried only a matter of inches, Tobler said. That has left eight service pipes in the air, which will also have to be replaced. That project will have to be funded by the township.
“It’s a bad situation,” King said. “Now there’s a little bit of an ongoing discussion and debate as to whose responsibility it is.”
Wade Trim’s contract requires the company to take care of any emergency situations the township faces with its system. But Wade Trim contends this doesn’t qualify as an emergency situation, and so the company isn’t responsible. Wade Trim recommended the township seek bids for the work.
“The township residents would pay for it, unfortunately, “ King said.
A majority of the board has asked Supervisor Pete Hafler to call another special meeting of the utility advisory committee. Hafler already called one, but his opposition on the board has charged it was an illegal meeting because it didn’t follow the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
Many board members said they weren’t aware of the meeting and no notice was posted.
No time or date for a new meeting was set at the October 23 Board of Trustees meeting.