STANTON — About 60 percent of your body is water, Your brain is 70 percent water, your lungs 90 percent. Every day, you must replace about 2.4 liters of water through drinking and the foods you eat.
That’s something residents of Stanton can do with a little more confidence now, thanks to a host of recent improvements to the water system there. According to City Manager James Freed, the improvements are just the first step in a long process toward upgrading the city’s water and sewer system.
Due to a history of neglect, Stanton’s water system rating was downgraded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2011 from “satisfactory” to “marginal,” not good news for residents, many of whom had grown accustomed to cloudy water coming from faucets.
“Being downgraded like this was a black eye,” said Freed, who was hired as city manager at about the same time the new rating came in. “It was my priority to try to set things right.”
With help from the Stanton City Commission, Freed developed a plan of action, including immediate action on many smaller maintenance jobs and replacement of worn-out or obsolete equipment, as well as long-range efforts, such as replacement of much of the city’s water and sewer mains, scheduled for next spring.
“(We) focused on rehabilitating our capital assets, like the water tower,” Freed said. “The pumps hadn’t been rehabilitated in 20 years.”
In the past year and a half, the city’s water system has undergone a $65,000 project to get those pumps replaced or repaired. Additionally, hardware has been installed at the pumps that alerts Freed and city employees immediately if a malfunction occurs.
In the spring, the city will undertake a far more ambitious phase of the project — the replacement of much of the city’s water and sewer mains, at a combined cost of $2.5 million.
“We currently have undersized water mains and they’re too old,” Freed said. “There’s sediment built up in them and some people have complained about cloudy water on occasion. That’s what we’re going to have to address. Also, we have to have an adequate level of flow for fire protection.”
Once that portion of the project is completed, the city will be back on a “pay as you go” footing, and only regular maintenance operations will be required.
Freed pointed out that none of the improvements will result in additional taxes or raised water rates for residents, who saw a rate hike last year.
“We just want to make sure we never have the city in this position again,” Freed said.
Stanton Mayor Monica Tissue-Daws said she hopes residents will see all the improvements being made and recognize that the city is putting money raised from the rate hike to good use.
“The the citizens can see their money being used for real improvements,” Tissue-Daws said. “This is going to be a continuing project, obviously, but the work (on the new water and sewer mains) will begin next spring, a continuation of our efforts.”
Tissue-Daws added that work will likely be finished prior to the end of next summer and that there would be no disruption of water or sewer services to any resident during the project.
Based on current projects, as well as those planned for next spring, the Department of Environmental Quality recently upgraded the city’s water quality rating from “marginal” back to “satisfactory.”
According to Freed, this is just the beginning of what he sees as a complete overhaul of the city’s infrastructure.
“Currently, we are finalizing the design and engineering of a massive water main replacement which will begin in the spring,” Freed said. “This additional water main replacement will help ensure better quality water and reliability in our water delivery system. It will also work to reduce cloudiness in the water caused from harmless sentiment in old water mains.
“These problems didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be fixed overnight. We’re not yet where we want to be, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
The city has produced a video detailing some of the work being done there. It is available online at youtube.com/watch?v=W2sp7bvxriI&feature=plcp.