Changing The Communication Landscape Through Construction

By Chad Gamble Public Service Director City of Lansing, MI | March 2010 Vol. 65 No. 3

It has been said that good news travels fast. In a town like Lansing, MI, news travels slightly faster. The tight-knit capital community is, without a doubt, one of Michigan’s biggest small towns. So when construction hits, the word gets around.

Since 1992, Lansing has been engaged in a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Control Program to eliminate millions of gallons of wastewater that enters the Grand River and surrounding bodies of water. Scheduled for completion in 2020, the CSO Control Program is mandated on both state (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) and federal (Environmental Protection Agency) levels as a means to protect and preserve Michigan’s waterways.

Once completed, the CSO Control Program will have separated nearly 7,000 acres of combined sewer pipeline and will eliminate 1.65 billion gallons of raw sewage overflow annually. That’s the equivalent of 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of wastewater in our rivers, streams and lakes. To date, the CSO Control Program has eliminated an average of 952.1 million gallons of combined sewage from entering the waterways each year, putting it just past the halfway mark for the project goal.

The challenge, of course, is helping the neighborhoods and business communities impacted by CSO construction, understand that the equipment and orange barrels outside their homes and storefronts have little to do with road improvements and everything to do with what’s going on below the surface.

The 2009 construction season marked a significant year for this underground project in mid-Michigan, reaching multiple milestones in construction and communication alike. With the combined efforts of engineers, contractors the Lansing Public Service Department and a smiling, seven-foot fish mascot, the city of Lansing is putting a new face on construction. The results have been nothing short of a success.

Dollars well spent
Of the $12 million Lansing dedicated to road repair projects in 2009, $5.5 million went to the CSO Control Program. These funds contributed to 7.7 miles of new sanitary sewer lines, 5.9 miles of new water main lines and the abandonment of three of the largest CSO regulators in Lansing. With these additions, the CSO Control Program has created 62 miles of new sanitary sewer lines and 39 miles of new water main lines.