Cost to fix Michigan sinkhole estimated at more than $78M

Posted at 6:48 PM, Jan 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-14 18:48:07-05

FRASER, Mich. (AP) — The cost to fix a broken sewer line that caused a football field-sized sinkhole north of Detroit is estimated at more than $78 million, Macomb County’s new public works chief says.

The project’s cost could rise above $100 million if more work is done to improve the rest of the sewer line, public works chief Candice Miller told Macomb County commissioners on Friday. The repairs could take about a year to complete.

“This is an enormous thing that’s happening to the county,” Miller said. “We’re up to the challenge. We’re going to get through this thing. We’re going to solve this problem. And somehow we’ve got to figure out how to pay for it.”

The sewer collapse was discovered after homeowners heard noises Christmas Eve and noticed their house was sinking.

Officials temporarily evacuated nearly two dozen homes because water and gas service had to be shut off. Nineteen families have since been allowed to return. Three homes were eventually condemned.

About 400,000 people in surrounding communities have been asked to take shorter showers and wash only full loads of clothing as part of a voluntary water conservation plea until a fix is completed.

Officials have not yet determined an exact cause for the sewer collapse, but said earlier this month that a 2-inch diameter hole bored through the pipe after a 1978 collapse may have allowed groundwater to move up into the line and erode the soil beneath the pipe.

Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency, allowing state resources to be funneled to Macomb County. That could also lead to seeking money from the federal government.

Miller said the county may use bonds to help pay for the repairs.

“We’re starting to talk about what we have to do from a financial standpoint here,” Miller said. “We’re probably going to do a short-term bond. Maybe a long-term bond because we need some immediate cash for many of the expenses here.”

Water and sewage rates may also increase.

“The numbers are a little bit staggering, but at the same time, we are not sure yet where we’re going to end up, or how much money we might be able to offset by with some funds the federal and state government,” said Bob Smith, county commission chair.