STANTON — Water is supposed to be clear, at least the stuff you pour into a glass. But for a long time, in the city of Stanton, that wasn’t always the case.
Old, rusting water mains, some laid down during the Eisenhower administration, often turned the city’s water an unappetizing, though essentially harmless, shade of yellow or brown.
That’s all changed, thanks to $3.5 million infrastructure renovation program that took place there last summer. For six months, much of the city — streets, sidewalks and in some cases, yards — was in a state of disarray; the last of the construction mess is still being cleared away. But the results, according to City Manager James Freed, were more than worth the inconvenience.
“The water here used to be stale and yellow,” Freed said. “I have Mason jars in my office filled with yellow water that (residents) would bring in. Now the water quality is much better. We have improved service and water quality.”
Freed noted that residents and business owners were very patient with their city being torn up last summer, even when the work temporarily impacted downtown businesses. Most of the work, fortunately, took place away from the downtown area, but there was a one-week period when consumers there experienced on and off again service.
Again, Freed noted, the inconvenience was worth the trouble.
“This was the largest infrastructure improvement the city has seen in 60 years,” Freed said. “It’s something designed to last for a generation, if not longer.”
Improvements in construction materials since the 1960s — which is the last time Stanton saw any major water and sewer improvements — go a long way toward ensuring the project’s longevity.
Jason Washler, the engineer from Grand Rapids-based Prein & Newhof, which orchestrated the project, agreed that the improvements will continue to serve the city well into the foreseeable future.
“The stuff we put in will last 50, if not 100 years,” Washler said. “There are still some other improvements that need doing, but the goal of our project was to identify high priority needs and take care of the smaller things as the funds become available.”
For a project of this size, Washler noted there were few snafus encountered along the way. At one point, Styrofoam blocks and fill had to be installed over the top of a sanitary sewer, a proven technique that has been employed by contractors for at least a couple decades. At another, crew uncovered a historic “corduroy road” buried about six feet below the current M-66 in the downtown area.
That road, built with logs — most likely in the late 19th Century — provided some historical interest to Michigan Department of Transportation experts, who came out to study and document the area before the project covered it up again.
Overall, however, work went as well or better than contractors and engineers expected.
“The job was very smooth,” Washler said. “We were working with a great contractor, which always makes things easier. When you’re digging you always find stuff you don’t expect, but we were all after the same thing, so that helped.”
According to Freed, the new water system is will save the city money in the long run. Paid for with a 2.7 percent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan, repayment still amounts to less than the city was paying for the frequent upkeep and repair jobs on the old system.
“Last year we had 20-some breaks (in the water lines),” Freed said. “This year we had none. We replaced several thousand feet of water and sewer throughout the city, rebuilt water pumps and replaced about half the city’s infrastructure. We essentially rebuilt the city in six months.”
Freed added that the final cleanup from the project — mostly cosmetic things like replanting lawns and replacing curb and gutter that were damaged during construction — is ongoing and should be completed within the new few weeks.