A new water system is being installed in Grand Marais. The large project will involve months of construction to replace old pipes that require more than simple maintenance.
It's been a long time coming. The current water system beneath Grand Marais was installed sometime around World War II, and the water mains aren't what they used to be. Normal maintenance can no longer keep up with the wear and tear.
"It is a cast iron pipe. It's seen its day. There's a lot of breaks; there's a lot of maintenance to keep the town flowing with water right now," said Kent Megill, construction superintendent for Elmer's Crane and Dozer.
"It's in dire need of repair on a lot of this stuff. We have a number of valves that don't work properly anymore...much needed repair," said Jack Hubbard, Burt Township Supervisor.
Burt Township decided it's time for a complete overhaul. The nearly five million dollar water system upgrade is funded by a rural development grant and loan package. Unlike most grant and loan packages, the upgrade is funded by more than 50 percent grants. Elmer's Crane and Dozer from Traverse City will be leading the construction. The majority of the upgrade requires installing new pipes to replace the old water system. The project involves installing six and eight-inch diameter pipes, which weigh hundreds of pounds apiece, and many water valves. By the end of the project, they will have installed close to six miles of pipe (~32,000 feet).
Fire hydrants will be closer together (which can lower fire insurance costs), water pressure will increase, and each building will have a water meter installed to make billing more fair for individuals. Some upgrades will be made to the pump house building. There will also be new controls for the water tank, and there will be a new standby generator. After digging and installing is complete, Elmer's will also reseed and repave where necessary.
Water bills have been raised by six dollars around Grand Marais to help the township pay for the work. So far, residents don't seem to mind if it means an end to leaky pipes.
"It's very important to the community to have this done. We've had continuous problems with leaking water mains and different issues with this. We have a real good water source, and it's going to be really nice to have a good system in place," Hubbard said.
Preparations began Monday, July 9, with bringing in the vehicles, equipment, and personnel. The digging and installations are expected to begin Monday, July 16.
The water system upgrade is highly weather dependent but is expected to be mostly complete by November. Some finishing touches will also have to be made next spring when winter is over.
There may be very brief periods of time that water will be shut off for residents, but there are no significant shut-offs expected.