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Winter 2003/2004
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Sanitary Sewer Inventory and Restoration Project

Fenton Township, Michigan, Uses GIS to Manage Assets and Projects

By Penelope Sharich, Fenton Township; Jason Taylor, North Arrow Technologies; and Tom Palizzi, Azteca Systems, Inc.

  click to see enlargement
The GIS-based computer maintenance management system (CMMS).

The first sanitary sewers were constructed in Fenton Township, Michigan, in 1968 around the eastern side of 850-acre Lake Fenton. In an effort to protect the quality of water within the lake and the township, the wastewater system was installed to the standards of the day. Since this basic beginning, the township has grown significantly, accumulating approximately 110 miles of sanitary sewers along with 56 lift stations. The once quiet vacation community found itself in the center of the world's automotive capital region, pressured by the growth that accompanied the industry.

Dislocated and cracked sewer lines, along with the potential of overuse, reversed the positive effects that were initially intended for the sewer system. This problem, combined with the fact that approximately 20 percent of Fenton Township is covered with surface water, prompted township Supervisor Carl Gabrielson to spearhead a project to inventory and restore the township's 110 miles of sanitary sewers. As part of this effort, the township entered into an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The first order of business required an adequate inventory of the sanitary sewer system. The township recognized the value of using a spatial database as a superior platform upon which to base the Sanitary Sewer Inventory and Restoration Project. Esri Business Partner North Arrow Technologies (NAT) of Fenton, Michigan, already a member of the township's project management team as the GIS contractor, immediately recognized the need for an asset and maintenance management solution to help manage the sewer project. Moreover, NAT sought a solution that would fully utilize and significantly add to the benefits of a GIS database approach.

For this project, the township and NAT initially acquired and deployed one license of ArcInfo and two licenses of ArcView 3.2. The GIS configuration has since grown to include five licenses of ArcView 8.3 and ArcInfo. In addition, NAT and Fenton Township selected CityworksFM (from Azteca Systems, an Esri Business Partner based in Sandy, Utah), a GIS-based asset and computer maintenance management system (CMMS), which would be used not only to manage the asset attribute data but also the actual day-to-day work flow for the project and ongoing system maintenance. The township maintains the CityworksFM geodatabase for wastewater in Microsoft SQL Server 2000.

North Arrow Technologies was charged with providing the mapping foundation and resultant data cataloging of the project. To accomplish this, NAT constructed a GIS layer for the entire sanitary sewer infrastructure system. The GIS sewer layer was initially built by reviewing as-built prints to map the approximate location of the sanitary sewer features. As each structure was being located using the existing paper maps inside the office, NAT was field verifying and updating the accuracy of the same data using a pair of Leica Geosystems SR530 GPS receivers. Each structure was uniquely numbered and stamped in the field to ensure all contractors could appropriately identify the portion of the sewer system in need of service.

While the township has a sewer department, it utilizes a network of contractors for services needed to maintain the sewers. When the sewer project began, it was immediately apparent that a quality team needed to be assembled to handle the multitude of tasks required. The project consisted of one township employee (Penelope Sharich, project coordinator) and six contractors with skill sets including project administration, engineering, electrical, excavation, television inspection, repair, GPS, and GIS management and mapping.

  crews working
Crews setting a replacement manhole.

The general flow of the project was to locate each manhole (recognizing that some were exposed and some were buried), raise all manhole structures to surface grade, perform a physical inspection of each, and make any necessary repairs. To inspect the sewer lines, the pipes were jetted to clean them in preparation for a closed-circuit television (CCTV) crew to record and review each foot of the 110 miles of sewer. The CCTV inspection provided the foundation for any structural repairs that were necessary as well as the removal of any protruding connection leads or roots. As the project ramped up, several contractors were involved in a variety of tasks simultaneously. The township needed a way to manage and track the progress of the project overall, as the course of the project took many different paths depending on what was found at each manhole or segment of the sewer system.

Cityworks was implemented to manage and track the services being rendered as part of the project. Every action required a work order to be issued—from inspecting the first manhole to repairing the last section of sewer line. This enabled the township to track each contractor and the sequence of every project to the task level.

The Azteca software and ArcGIS software have empowered the township to ensure that only authorized work is performed and meets the standards it requires. Use of these management tools enables the township to continue to utilize outside contractors and hold each contractor responsible for the work it performs. Work orders are only closed when each contractor validates that its work was completed to the township's standards.

Moreover, the township can now track the progress to a high level of detail. The data accumulated in the day-to-day business process provides an essential history of the maintenance performed to each asset—data that is also vital to public and environmental health. Required quarterly reporting for the Michigan Department of Water Quality Administrative Consent Order mandate and others, such as the Government Accounting Standard Board Bulletin 34, is easily and efficiently performed using built-in tools and Crystal Reports. Using a GIS-based system, all maintenance and work history is tied directly to the specific feature or set of features. Information is accessed from the map view by selection of the feature or simple search functions to view or print a report on the entire work history.

Building on the GIS as a core data warehouse in the Department of Public Works has further enhanced daily operations at the township. For example, access to the general sewer infrastructure mapping has proven beneficial to operations and maintenance as well as the Township Board in decision making. Having more accurate data for planning and engineering has helped facilitate the planning and review process. The township has embarked on an effort to scan and attach engineering schematics and sewer connection cards to the GIS layer for quick review and printing to support field crews and residents with timely and necessary information. The GIS infrastructure data is also being used as the basis for the township's continuous flow sewer model.

With a small staff, the community of Fenton Township is directing the operations of a large project with high demands such as those seen in much larger municipalities. The integration of GIS and a CMMS has made this department more efficient and cost-effective.

For more information, contact Penelope Sharich, Fenton Township Sewer Department (e-mail:, tel.: 810-629-1537), or Jason Taylor, North Arrow Technologies (e-mail:

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