A well run public service should be both ubiquitous and invisible – always present yet so efficient it barely receives notice.
For residents of the South Oakland County, the George W. Kuhn Retention Treatment Basin, located just off I-75 near Twelve Mile Road, is a stellar examplet. Part of the ever expanding infrastructure needed to meet the needs of area residents, GWKRTB is a state of the are water treatment facility. In fact, representatives from water and sewage authorities nationwide have traveled to Oakland County to study the complex.
The GWKRTB represents an evolution in the handling of wastewater in the region. Although the present facility dates to only 2006, the site, which straddles the Royal Oak – Madison Heights border, has served as the collection point for sewage in Oakland County for decades.
Prior to 1972, the only facility present was a simple concrete lined channel which collected waste water and storm run-off from the inlet weir (the point where all area sewers converge) west of I-75 which ran into Red Run Drain. Under this system, raw, untreated sewage would then flow directly to the Clinton River and out to Lake St. Clair, creating considerable environmental hazard.
In 1972, a facility named Twelve Town Drain was constructed which covered the original channel with concrete, construction of a retention basin, and the introduction of valves and pumps capable of regulating the flow downstream. This new flexibility allowed workers to divert the flow to the Detroit sewage system at periods of low demand, and utilize the Red Run Drain during periods of heavy rainfall. Despite these improvements, it eventually became obvious to county water resource officials that a more sophisticated system would be necessary to comply with increasing stringent EPA requirements.
The current facility was engineered to control the flow and treat the incoming water to reduce the level of toxicity to acceptable levels. The first goal is achieved by expanding the retention basin by fifty percent, to a size of 62 million gallons. Also included in an elaborate “screening” facility, which runs the flow through large screens with one half inch openings to separate out solid matter. Next, the water is disinfected with sodium hypochlorite, which is introduced by way of special feed pumps. Only then is it released into the Red Run Drain.
To assure seamless reliability, redundancy is an operature principle at the RTB. Emergency screening equipment is available if upstream flow levels reach critical depths. Six vertical dri pit solids-handling pumps allow for pumping capacity of 100 cubic feet per second, a capacity that can be maintained even when one pump is disabled.
Even the facility’s electrical needs are subject to duplicity. Two natural powered generators, each capable of generating 100o kilowatts are available, and can run all the equipment in the event of a power outage.
The RTB also utilizes the latest technology. A two mile long fiber optic communication network links the entire system (which includes other locations in South Oakland) to the control room, allowing workers to monitor regional rainfall, depth of flow in the upstream sewers, rate and depth of flow within the RTB and the rate and depth of flow to the Detroit collection system.
The RTB is expected to serve residents and businesses in South Oakland for decades to come. A visit to the impressive and well run facility make this fact clearly evident.
Author & Photographer : Paul Vachon – Reporter/Automotive, Historian, representing