Vickburg pipes: What do they do, where do they go?

By Bob Ball

Pipes, heavy earthmoving equipment, dirt streets and hard-hat workers have replaced pavement, sidewalks, cars, pickups and pedestrians in downtown Vicksburg.

Large concrete pipes have been parked on Prairie. Smaller green plastic pipes, bundled in fours, have waited on Washington. Still smaller black iron pipe is stacked at Prairie and North Richardson.

Interlocking sheet piling is stored on Prairie. So are large steel trench boxes. Both are needed temporarily to shore up excavations for protection of workers and equipment.

Village Manager Jim Mallery, DPW Director Randy Schippers and Jason Washler with the engineering firm of Prein&Newhof described what’s to be seen and what’s happening with it.

The concrete pipes: They’re storm drains, increasing capacity for storm water toward three outfalls, one into the creek in Clark Park at a depth and in a location that required eliminating the waterfall, the other two into Portage Creek at Washington. Installation, to a depth of approximately 10 feet began on the village’s east side. A map provided by the engineering firm shows new drains are being buried on Prairie from Pearl to Michigan with short spurs on North Richardson and North Pearl. The new drain also continues south on Main from Prairie to Washington, west on Washington to South Mill and for a short distance north on Mill. Washler said diameters range from 48 inches between Clark Park and Main and decrease in size upstream, to 15 inches at Elm.

There are three sets of circular chambers, “hydrodynamic separators”, designed to collect debris washed into the drains, preventing it from reaching the lake and streams. Storm water flows into the first chamber of a set, said DPW Director Randy Schippers. There, the debris is deflected by a fiberglass insert and is pushed into adjacent chambers while the storm water flows on toward the receiving stream.

The sewers: The village sanitary sewer system routes sewage north toward a connection to Kalamazoo’s sewage treatment plant. Differing elevations in the village require a combination of gravity sewers, lift stations and pumped “force mains.” Work underway includes replacement of a sewer line from the final pumping station at Spruce near Richardson south to Prairie via Spruce and Pearl. There, it connects with a sewer on Prairie from Wilson to Michigan. A connection from the Prairie sewer connects to another on Main from Prairie to Washington and from there on Washington to Mill and a lift station on the south side of Washington. Another new segment serves the Centennial and Trillium subdivisions via a force main to the lift station on Washington. Sewers in diameters of 21 and 24 inches are buried to approximately 15 feet. Stubs of vertical pipe projecting up at several places, Washler said, “mark locations for sanitary sewer connections yet to be finished.”

Water: Existing water mains are being replaced with 8-inch and 12-inch ductile iron pipe on portions of Spruce and Division, on Prairie from Wilson to Main, on Main from Prairie to Washington and Washington to Mill. An older four-inch main downtown is being taken out of service. Water mains are buried at depths of five feet. Washler said that work will begin early this month on Prairie between Kalamazoo and Main.

The contractor is Allegan-based Milbocker & Sons. The project, costing approximately $11 million, most of it for sewer work, is being financed by a 40-year low-interest loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Repayment will come from increases on water and sewer charges.

“The contractor is currently planning on completing 95% of the work on these streets before the end of the traditional construction season November 15,” Mallery said.  “There will likely be work that needs to be finished in the spring.”

Pipes for all three systems – storm drains, water and sewer – will be placed at varying depths on Main from Prairie to Washington. The village is using construction as an opportunity to redo that portion of Main: The block-long segment will become one-way southbound. Sidewalks will be widened to a minimum of 13 feet, Mallery said.

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