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March 5, 2013

Constantine Village Council approves force main improvements project

Constantine Village Office - brickwork

Three Rivers Clean Water (CWP) director James J. Baker spoke on the need for Constantine to cover the cost of a force main improvements project at the Constantine Village Council meeting Monday evening (March 4).  The estimated cost of the project is $75,592.13.

Three Rivers Clean Water (CWP) Director James Baker spoke on a force main improvements project at a March 4 Constantine Village Council meeting.


A letter written earlier by Baker to Village Manager Mark Honeysett, included a history of the force main piping used to carry Constantine’s sewage to the CPW plant. It was reviewed by the council, before a question and answer session with Baker.  In the letter, Baker said the Constantine system has been in operation since 1998. There are a total of 17 air release valves (ARVs) with a primary function of releasing air, or in some instances, to equalize a vacuum created by wastewater traveling downhill during pumping cycles. Trapped air pockets within the force main create excessive operation pressures and increase the wear on pumps. Vacuum conditions within the force main fatigue the ductile iron pipe and could contribute to the failure of the force main. All 17 ARVs in service must operate automatically during every pumping cycle. Routine flushing of the ARVs is recommended semiannually. The design life of an ARV is 15 years according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. In the spring of 2012, CWP management began to locate, identify and prioritize failed and damaged ARVs.

“In October-November of 2012, CWP staff performed an exhaustive evaluation of the entire force main and determined 16 of the existing 17 ARVs had failed or were in poor condition,” Baker told the council.  “The cost to remove, rebuild, then re-install the units was 95 percent to 110 percent of the cost of a new unit, so the decision was made to accept bids for replacement of all 16 units, and purchase two spare units,” he said.

In addition to the ARV work, there needs to be replacement of the high pressure seal water pumps and the calcium nitrate pump, Baker said.  “The existing seal water pumps have been rebuilt several times since they were originally installed in 2003.  The booster station has only one of two pumps operating, and the loan pump has bad bearings and a worn coupling.”
Baker added the two pumps at the high lift station routinely overheat and are only capable of serving one main sewage pump at a time.

The existing calcium nitrate pump has also been in service since 2003 and, despite two complete rebuilds, the pump’s performance is declining.

Baker urged the force main project be completed by September 1, 2013. He recommended Constantine hire W. Soule & Company of Portage to do sewer force main improvements at a cost of $70,270. A second bid of $70,500 was received from L.D. Dosca & Associates in Kalamazoo.

In a letter introduced to the council, Project Manager Randy McDaniel from W. Soule gave a breakdown of what the money would go for. It included 18 change-out replacement vent valves (with two kept as spares), purchase and installation of four Grundfos vertical seal water pumps, and a calcium nitrate pump.

“You could delay this decision three or four months, but a year or more is questionable. It’s not going to get any cheaper,” Baker said.

Honeysett said, “The system’s 15 years old. We’ll run into more repair costs.  We’ve been fortunate already it hasn’t failed all at once.”

The motion was made to accept the bid from W. Soule & Company, and passed unanimously. Honeysett said money had already been budgeted for the project.

Source:  Story and photo contributed by Angie Birdsall.


  1. Scott Chiddister

    Good write up on this Angie. Here’s some of the rest of the story one might want to consider.

    This is a good news/bad news situation. Good news is that it is without question a necessary repair.

    Now the bad news–before the $1.7 million redesign of the waste water conveyance system (on top of the $1.3 million spent to build the original design), the original engineers of this system deemed those air release valves as critical to the operation of the system and they felt some of those valves that were found in disrepair (some from impact by Snow Truck plows) contributed in part to the pump issues we were having. Now we have the announcement of all but one needing replaced. They felt that was what contributed much to do with all the previous issues with pumps operating badly and breaking pump impellers frequently–so frequently that it eventually shut down both pumps at the same time. As a result, we were trucking our waste to TR for a couple of weeks, and the end result necessitated a $200,000 proposed fix that spiraled to a $1.7 million final bill when it was all said and done.

    Now granted we have additional pumps since that timeframe, which help, but the short story is that having all but one of these valves found in need of replacement begs the questions 1) “how long were these valves in this state of disrepair?” and 2″ What did having these valves in this state of disrepair over that timeframe do to the life expectancy of the pumps and other equipment, and the piping itself (having a place where gas can be trapped and condense to an acidic mix in a pipeline is intuitively concerning. Also it is another case in point where we receive a major repair bill for a system that was built to get us out of the sewer business, or so the promise goes from folks that are no longer here to back that promise up. When you see bills like this do you feel we are out of the sewer business–I sure as heck don’t.

    Much of the costs in this repair are just to replace the valves to “burp” the pipeline of gas/air bubbles–and as stated in numerous posts, this system has a shelf life. Thus, in part why any agreement to continue this arrangement with the City to treat waste has to estimate the projected repair, replacement and operating costs of this system because that is part of the costs we all pay. Our costs simply are not the cost to have the waste treated at the city–it’s also in part the costs for the 8 mile long system to get it there (and that system is getting old and cost $3 million to build–the costs aren’t like wine–they don’t improve with age).

    Costs like these MUST be considered and weighed against any costs for alternatives to treat our waste ourselves to find the most cost effective means to treat our waste moving forward.

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