‘This is the Way Forward:’ GLWA Joins Forces with DWSD, Oakland County in New Collaboration

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) announced today a new collaboration project in the city of Detroit and Oakland County that will offer better water quality and help remove wet weather discharges in local waterways. The first-of-its-kind collaboration was discussed during a virtual press conference. This comes on the heels of the GLWA Board of Directors adopting a regional Wastewater Master Plan (WWMP) last December. The plan manages the wastewater system that serves 2.8 million people and spans 15,000 miles of pipes across 79 communities in southeast Michigan, according to a press release.


The 40-year plan, unique to others nationwide, is due to creative regional collaboration among 100 stakeholders, including GLWA’s member partners, watershed advocacy groups, regulatory agencies, and more, according to its website. 


Today’s announcement of the Drainage District is described as the “first tangible” result of GLWA’s recently adopted wastewater management plan and features prioritizing lower cost, high-impact projects that protect water quality and public health, contribute to economic prosperity, and sustain the environment, a press release added.


 The joint forces working together with GLWA on this include Oakland County’s Evergreen-Farmington Sanitary Drain Drainage District (EFSD) and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). EFSD (a newly created regional sewer service district) and DWSD are looking at three projects over the next five years, which are aiming to eliminate 48 million gallons of untreated wet weather discharge from flowing into the Rouge River annually.


“The memorandum of understanding (MOUs) between GLWA, EFSD, and DWSD bring to life the regional thinking that was so prominent in our Wastewater Master Plan,” said Suzanne Coffey, chief planning officer, GLWA. “This is truly a unique solution to reduce untreated overflows in Oakland County and the city of Detroit. This opportunity has rightfully given way to our new motto ’cleaner water, faster and cheaper’ and is a direct result of unprecedented regional collaboration.”   


”Preserving safe, reliable water, sewer, and storm drain systems is extremely important for our region,” said Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, who serves as chairperson of the drainage district. “We are now thinking differently and working together to protect the public health and natural resources of all our residents. The Evergreen-Farmington Sanitary Drain project is a lasting example of regional collaboration at its finest. The MOU shows that we’re working across county lines to discover a single solution to address multiple regional concerns.”


The Evergreen-Farmington Sanitary Drain Drainage District (EFSD), a regional sewer service district that collects sanitary sewage operated by the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner (WRC) Nash. Nash helps secure additional wet weather flow capacity in the regional wastewater system to complete its 30-year plan for improving the water quality of the Rouge River, according to a press release. As a result of this additional capacity, EFSD will not only improve system reliability but will also avoid the cost of constructing a new wet weather treatment facility, as well as costs from its long-term operations and maintenance.


To offset this additional flow into the regional wastewater system, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and GLWA will each undertake their projects:


  • DWSD is implementing its Far West Detroit Stormwater Improvement Project which was identified in 2017 as part of its green stormwater infrastructure program, according to a press release. The project will improve sewer flow and capacity by removing stormwater within the right-of-way from the combined sewer pipes. This will be done by installing sewers that move stormwater through two new green stormwater infrastructure projects in Rouge Park. The filtered stormwater will discharge directly into the Rouge River, rather than flowing to the Water Resource Recovery Facility. Because of this, the results are expected to improve DWSD’s service delivery as well as reduce street flooding and the potential for basement backups in the Far West Detroit neighborhood.


  • GLWA will speed up the undertaking of a two-part improvement project at its West Warren combined sewer outfall location in Detroit, ahead of schedule, that will correct wet weather discharges from this location and bring it into compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, the press release added. The project includes constructing a new diversion weir chamber west of the Rouge River and increasing the size of an existing 18-inch diameter pipe to a 54-inch pipe east of the Rouge River.


Once finished, the three projects will provide incredible environmental benefit, across county lines, for the $68 million total investment. 


Ultimately, by coordinating these projects across communities, it allows for a collaborative approach to maximize the investment value, achieving overall cost savings for the region, providing significant environmental benefit, and securing increased system reliability.


DWSD’s project will begin in the summer of this year, following the selection and approval of a contractor. GLWA’s project will start after the completion of DWSD’s project. Oakland County’s project has a planned start of the summer of next year.  


“We have been planning the Far West Detroit Stormwater Improvement Project for three years in an effort to continue our work in reducing untreated combined sewer overflows to our rivers,” said Palencia Mobley, P.E., deputy director and chief engineer, DWSD. “The partnership with GLWA and Oakland County is beneficial for the City and region at-large. And, like we have been doing the last five years under our current leadership, we will continue engaging and gathering input from the community in all phases of the project.”


Mobley added that “we are pushing the envelope” in a good way not only in how they are thinking but how regulators are thinking. She added that local water authorities spent the early ‘90s in silos getting work done, and times have changed.

“Now (we are) thinking broader about doing things that impact us and better (the) lives of people living in southeastern Michigan,” she said.

Coffee added that the “lasting relationships” are just the beginning.

“This is regional collaboration at its best,” she said.


For more information on GLWA, please visit www.glwater.org.

For more information on DWSD visit here.

For more information on WRC visit here.





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