Your East Lansing Infrastructure Questions Answered

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Alice Dreger for ELi

Still missing: a walk sign where Abbot Road crosses Albert Ave.

This week’s “Ask ELi to Investigate” column brings answers to East Lansing infrastructure questions from three ELi readers. Here are their questions in bold followed by the answers.

“Love your Ask ELi segment, and I finally have one for you! The new Graduate and Abbott buildings look great and bring a lot to downtown, and [Albert EL] Fresco is really doing well. The last few times I’ve walked to downtown and back, I’ve had trouble crossing Abbot headed westbound from the south side of Albert (e.g. crossing Abbot from the tattoo shop in College Manor to The Abbot’s northeast corner). There is no pedestrian signal there, and no pole or location for one to be installed. You can’t read the signal on the north side of Albert from the south side, and even if you could, there is a protected left from Albert to Abbot (I think) to contend with. Google Street View shows there used to be one there, but it was removed when The Abbot was built. Did someone forget to put it into the design? It’s strange to promote pedestrian use of downtown while removing important infrastructure for getting pedestrians into downtown.”

That walk sign is finally being installed now, but it may take a while to become operational.

Back in February we reported on this issue under the headline “The Case of the Missing Walk Sign.” We explained that the delay in installation at that time was caused by a tangle of issues, including emerging plans to construct the MSUFCU office building across Albert Avenue, just south of Dublin Square.

Prompted recently by the new reader question, we decided to check back in with East Lansing Deputy Director of Public Works Nicole McPherson, who let us know on July 23 that “The signal contractor is scheduled to start the installation of the infrastructure and foundations today. This will last a few weeks. Once the underground infrastructure is installed, the contractor will install the pedestrian signals and new traffic signals. This installation could be delayed as the delivery time for the material can be up to 12 weeks.”

According a follow-up from McPherson on July 26, “Submittals for the equipment were fully approved last week by the design firm which starts the ordering process. We are working with the contractor to prioritize the installation of the pedestrian signals. Material shortages may still impact this schedule.”

As of now, both crosswalks across Abbot Road at Albert Avenue are closed. Pedestrians are expected to walk to Grand River Avenue to cross Abbot Road.

“The work on the [Woodingham] pump station [just off Harrison Road] seems complete. Some landscaping was done, however the external equipment detracts from this residential neighborhood. Can there be a little more landscaping added to distract the eye? I would love to see the area return to a welcoming intersection from each direction both for aesthetics and property value. [I asked and] I did not get a return email from Nicole McPherson, Deputy Director of Public Works.”

This reader also let us know in a follow-up exchange that there have been bad smells coming off this sewage pump station, reaching the yards of nearby houses.

We asked the City what’s up with this, and learned that City staff are planning to try to make the area look better. They hope it will smell better soon, too.

Dylan Lees for ELi

The new Woodingham Pump Station just off Harrison Road in East Lansing.

Responding to a request from ELi to respond to this reader’s concerns, DPW Deputy Chief McPherson wrote, “The Woodingham Pump Station Replacement project is complete as all contract items have been installed. The landscaping included as part of the plan has also been installed. We are working to determine the best way forward to conceal the pump station equipment. Our main thought would be to install privacy fencing around the station and we are working to get this bid out. Once we are able to move forward on the fencing, we would be able to look at installing some additional landscaping.”

About the smells, McPherson said that “odor control equipment has been installed as part of this project given the use of the site as a sewage pumping station. This equipment has just become fully operational in the last couple of weeks and it may take a bit of time for it to become fully effective.”

“The sewage treatment plant located on Burcham Drive east of Park Lake Road has had on-going digging for many months in a settlement pond. I am hoping ELi can find out the purpose of the construction and timetable for completion.”

This is actually a drinking water (not sewage) project. It is aimed at lime removal from a pond that is used as part of the water treatment process.

The plant in question, located at 2470 Burcham Dr., is operated by the East Lansing-Meridian Water and Sewer Authority (ELMWSA). That is the public authority that provides potable water to both East Lansing and Meridian Township.

Asked about what our reader was seeing, ELMWSA Manager Clyde Dugan first explained in an email to ELi, that ELMWSA pulls the water it treats “from 29 groundwater wells located throughout the service area. The groundwater is of very good quality, but does contain an objectionable amount of hardness.”

That means it contains a lot of minerals. Dugan wants people to understand “that excess hardness is of no concern for public health protection, but water with this level of hardness is considered objectionable because it causes deposits on wetted surfaces like dishes, showers, etc. and will result in coarse-feeling clothes and excessive use of detergents.”

So, the ELMWSA plant aims, in Dugan’s words, “to remove a large portion of the natural hardness from this water source, producing a finished water quality that is acceptable to residents without needing an individual water softener in each home or business.” And what our reader has been seeing is part of this softening process.

“As a result of the softening process, the excess hardness is removed from the water primarily in the form of calcium carbonate, otherwise known as residual lime. That is the white material that is collected in the lagoons at the water plant. Periodically, the lagoons are cleaned to remove this residual lime, and it is used as a soil amendment [fertilizer] on farmlands throughout central Michigan. One of the lagoons was cleaned last year and we noticed some repairs were needed to the bottom of the lagoon. That is the work going on now and will probably be done in a week or two. Following that, we will be removing some residual lime from another lagoon later this summer, which will also take two or three weeks.”

We asked Dugan about the cost of this work, and he responded that, “The cost of residual lime removal is approximately $300,000 per year. This cost is a normal operating expense for operating the water treatment plant and is included in the cost of water that is billed to each community.”

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