Esky water plant project about 75 percent complete

A crane operator reenters the crane’s cab to continue work on the Escanaba Water Plant this week. Upgrades at the water plant are expected to be complete next June, but motorists will likely be able to drive around the water plant in the coming months. (Escanaba Daily Press photo)

ESCANABA — The Escanaba Water Treatment Plant project is nearing its end, according to Water and Wastewater Superintendent Jeff Lampi, but if everything goes according to plan, residents won’t notice a thing.

“Nobody should even realize that we did anything. Nobody should realize we even went through all this work, because our goal is to not interrupt anybody,” said Lampi.

Before the end of the year, Lampi expects that about 75% of the water treatment plant project will be complete. The remaining work, which will all take place inside the waterplant building, will wrap up next year with a projected completion date sometime in June.

“We are nearing the end but we are nowhere near the end,” he said.

One of the primary goals of the project is to address the aging infrastructure of the plant. Specifically, there was a section of old pipe workers could not reach that the city was concerned would rot out and there were no good options for water plant employees to access the plant’s clearwell, a tank that holds filtered water prior to distribution, without shutting off service to residents.

To address the issues, the city constructed a second tank and added other redundancies to the plant that will allow workers to temporarily shutdown one portion at a time for maintenance without affecting water customers.

“We haven’t been in there (the existing clearwell) for years because we were unable to. Building this extra tank with redundancy is going to allow us to do maintenance on the 1930/1950 portion of the plant without the citizens of the customers realizing any failures in the plant design,” said Lampi.

The upgrades also include spaces where additional disinfectant byproduct removal can take place — something that will come in handy as the state implements evermore restrictive drinking water requirements.

While the water plant upgrades are distinct from the ongoing lead service line replacements taking place across Escanaba, it’s not an accident that the city is tackling both projects simultaneously. Doing so allowed the city to score better on applications for state grants and loan forgiveness programs. That strategy has paid off, with about 70% of the water treatment plant being paid for using grant and loan forgiveness money.

“We’ve been putting a lot of thought in this for over eight years on how we were going to do this,” said Lampi.

With the second clearwell constructed, the water department is waiting on smaller parts, like electronics for pumps. They’re also working to complete the outside work as quickly as possible so the road around the water plant can reopen to motorists.

“The big thing right now is the outside work, to get all that buried pipe in the ground so that we can get the road opened back up. That’s the big thing right now, I believe,” said Lampi.

The road is expected to reopen before snow begins to fall. A hump over the pipe used for dewatering will remain for the foreseeable future.


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