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Fraser sinkhole: Final work to begin on roads affected by sewer collapse

Utica, 15 Mile roads to undergo final repairs

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Dec. 5, 2017 to reopen at stretch of 15 Mile Road in Fraser, Mich. (WDIV)
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Dec. 5, 2017 to reopen at stretch of 15 Mile Road in Fraser, Mich. (WDIV)

FRASER, Mich. – Crews are preparing to begin the final repair work at the site of a sewer collapse and sinkhole along 15 Mile Road in Fraser. 

Starting April 23, crews will begin milling and resurfacing the asphalt at the intersection of 15 Mile Road and Utica Road, the Macomb County Public Works Office announced.

Over the course of three days Utica Road will be closed periodically and there will be a complete lane closure of eastbound 15 Mile Road. The 15 Mile Road lane closures will result in a lane shift to maintain traffic in the east and westbound directions at all times, according to the Public Works Office.

The Utica Road closure for north and southbound traffic will not be continuous and traffic flow will be restored in between the milling and resurfacing operations. 

The Public Works Office said operation of the underground sewer interceptor will not be impacted. Restoration of the roughly 300-foot length of the 12-foot diameter sewer interceptor and installation of a lining on an adjacent 3,700 feet was completed in October. The roadway opened in December.

The remainder of the restoration along 15 Mile Road between Fontana Street (west of Hayes Road) and Garfield Road will include topsoil seed, mulch, sprinklers and other landscaping restoration items.

"This work will complete the ‘repair’ portion of this project, a monumental task that was executed with precision and professionalism by our employees, contractors and numerous partner agencies,” said Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller. “While this work is wrapping up, a schedule of preventative maintenance projects in the MIDD (Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District) system will soon also be getting underway to ensure that we will not have another sink hole on 15 Mile Road.”

Sewer collapsed in December 2016            

This whole crisis started on Dec. 24, 2016. Twenty families were forced out of their homes on Christmas Eve as a massive sinkhole formed beneath the neighborhood along 15 Mile Road. That sinkhole was created by a collapsing sewer drain interceptor.

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The 12-foot diameter sewage pipe cracked and was leaking raw sewage 45 feet underneath the Fraser neighborhood. Sewage had to be pumped out of the neighborhood and into the Clinton River to keep if from flooding basements.

Residents complained for weeks about a foul stench in the area. 

These photos show the repair trench dug out in the summer of 2017: 

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Repairs underway in September 2017 at the site of a sinkhole along 15 Mile Road in Fraser, Mich. (WDIV)
Repairs underway in September 2017 at the site of a sinkhole along 15 Mile Road in Fraser, Mich. (WDIV)

Here's a short video explaining the collapse of the pipe: 

Two homes in the neighborhood were condemned and eventually demolished. The Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District, which owns and operates the 15 Mile Road interceptor and related infrastructure, is in the process of listing for sale one of the three homes that were purchased by the district during the repair process. That home on Eberlein Street was not damaged during the collapse and subsequent repair. The home is being listed with Jason Real Estate.

The vacant lots previously occupied by two homes that were damaged by the sink hole are expected to be listed for sale this summer.

Macomb County communities pay for fix

The fix for the interceptor reportedly cost the county about $80 million. This cost was shared by 11 Macomb County communities.

Sterling Heights tried to fight paying for it and pushed for a lawsuit against the county on grounds that its residents should not have to pay for the repairs that Sterling Heights leaders claim the county should have avoided in the first place.

However, in March 2018 a judge dismissed the lawsuit and claims against the county. Sterling Heights is responsible for paying $22 million toward the repairs.

1.5 million gallons of sewage fills repair trench

Repairs did not go without some problems along the way. In August about 1.5 million gallons of sewage filled the repair trench. 

Three vehicles at the bottom of the 300-foot by 28-foot by 65-foot deep trench were completely submerged, according to the Public Works Office. One was a small tractor and another was an excavator. The third vehicle, dubbed the “bat-mobile,” is a specialized piece of equipment that was being used to insert the new pipe into the existing sewer line at the work site. 

"Obviously, this is a setback," Miller said at the time. "We are relieved first and foremost that no one was hurt and, equally, that there was no impact to the Clinton River. In fact, the recovery trench was actually designed in such a way that, if there was an incident like this, the trench would contain any sewage, which is exactly what happened here."

It's unclear what caused the trench to flood with sewage.


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