Fraser, Mich. — About two miles of polyethylene pipes are carrying raw sewage around a damaged drain interceptor in the Detroit suburb of Fraser, where a sinkhole the size of a football field opened up last Christmas Eve, partially swallowing one house, causing irreparable damage to two others and displacing residents of another 20 homes.
Sixty feet below, an 11-foot-wide sewer interceptor made of non-reinforced concrete had collapsed. The earth gave way and left a 100-foot-wide, 250-foot-long crater along part of a system that transports sewage from 11 cities to a giant transmission line, which then moves it to a treatment plant.
This was the third sewer line failure since 1978 in almost the same place. This time, the shifting ground destroyed three houses and allowed the release of 13 million gallons of wastewater into the Clinton River. It was a choice between releasing wastewater or the risk of raw sewage backing up into thousands of basements in two cities.
For months since then, local officials worried about rain stressing the broken system that serves about 528,000 people. They asked the 150,000 households and 43,000 businesses tapped into it to send as little wastewater as possible down their drains. Use paper plates. Run full dishwashers. Take shorter showers. Flush only solids. And, they pleaded ahead of the Super Bowl: Let's not all rush to the bathroom at halftime. A usage spike could've meant an environmental mess with another discharge of pollutants into the river.
Amid all the concerns, plastic infrastructure has been solving problems, not only in the form of PE pipe for the long-term bypass but a composite material as well that will be used for the replacement interceptor.
When the bypass is fully operational in early April, the interceptor will be rebuilt with centrifugally cast, fiberglass-reinforced polymer mortar (CCFRPM) pipe. The product will come from Houston-based Hobas Pipe USA, which manufactures it from a thermoset resin, such as polyester or vinylester, chopped glass fibers and reinforcing agents.