A view of Saginaw City Hall, located at 1315 S. Washington Ave., on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.Heather Jordan | MLive.com
SAGINAW, MI — A piece of equipment pumping Saginaw sewage since Harry Truman was president experienced “catastrophic failure,” prompting city leaders to spend $265,733 for a replacement.
Paul Reinsch, director of Saginaw’s water and wastewater treatment, said one of the city’s six raw sewage pumps was destroyed beyond repair in late October.
The 70-year-old pumps lift sewage 50 feet — from below the ground — during the wastewater treatment process. That upward motion is propelled in part by the pump impellers, which are essentially fan blades. A nut in one of the impellers “came off, hit the impeller and was driven into the case of the pump, and shattered it,” Reinsch said.
The resulting equipment failure triggered an alarm for staff and resulted in flooding in the pump room, he said.
During a Monday, Feb. 21 meeting, the Saginaw City Council voted to pay the only company building such pumps in Michigan, Pontiac-based Abba Sewer and Drain, to design and cast the replacement.
Reinsch said the company would build the pump based on the design configurations of the original pump, which was installed and in operation since 1950.
“Because these are older (pumps), they no longer meet the current standards, so they don’t build the pumps in the configurations these (original) pumps are in,” he said. “It’s to our benefit to have the pump built in the (original) configuration so we can get it installed relatively quickly.”
Councilman Michael Flores questioned if the city could wait to purchase the replacement after potentially receiving funds from a $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress in November 2021.
Reinsch said a hasty replacement was necessary because of the dangers posed by spring rains that sometimes cause flooding, which strains water and wastewater systems.
“We can’t afford not to repair the pump,” he said. “If we have a (weather) event, we could have — literally — a real mess.”
Reinsch said staff explored repairing the existing pump, but “it was toast.” Officials also considered proposing a new configuration altogether for the wastewater pump system, but the time involved in such a process could expose the city’s wastewater treatment to those spring flood dangers.
Reinsch said the age of the remaining five wastewater treatment sewage pumps — all were installed in 1950 — meant he likely would propose additional investments in the equipment in the near future.
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