Conner Creek CSO Control Facility: Michigan’s Largest

Client: Detroit Water and Sewerage Department
Location: Detroit, MI

When storm flows overloaded Detroit’s combined sewer system, untreated wastewater flowed from three outfalls into Conner Creek, a half-mile-long tributary to the Detroit River. This constituted the largest CSO discharge in the state of Michigan, totaling about two billion gallons per year. Due to the enormous volume and widely fluctuating nature of these discharges (ranging from less than 500 to over 14,000 cubic feet per second), controlling these flows presented a complex engineering challenge. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department retained Hazen and Sawyer as the lead of a multi-disciplinary team, to assist in the planning, design, and construction oversight of a new CSO Control Facility to screen, settle, and disinfect all flow up to the 10-year, 1-hour event.

Project Outcomes and Benefits

  • Largest CSO control facility in the state of Michigan, serving as a model for other major CSO projects.
  • Eliminates up to two billion gallons of untreated discharge to Conner Creek annually.
  • Set the stage for regulatory changes that may reduce disinfection contact time from 10 to 5 minutes, significantly lowering treatment costs.
  • Instituted CxT disinfection control, minimizing chemical usage and total residual chlorine, and leading to implementation at other facilities.
  • Included removal of 160,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment deposits from Conner Creek, thereby eliminating objectionable sediment-generated odors.
  • Redevelopment of 8.5 acres of an urban park, including creation of a 1.75 acre oxbow and fish habitat pond, a walking path, barrier free fishing pier, a gazebo, an island with native prairie grass plantings, and interpretive signage describing native plants and fish.
  • Work was completed four months ahead of schedule, within its construction budget.
  • The facility can store up to 62 million gallons of combined sewage during a storm event, and subsequently convey it to DWSD’s wastewater treatment facility after the storm has subsided.

The Conner Creek CSO facility - seen here at the start of construction - now eliminates up to two billion gallons of untreated discharge to Connor Creek annually.

The first stage abutting the creek was constructed within a 1,400 feet long, 80 feet wide, and up to 40 feet deep cofferdam. Bracing was provided at three levels and was removed as walls were placed and re-supported using inclined rakers.

Each of the 6,700 steel pipe piles were driven in holes pre-drilled to limit disruption to nearby residents. The piles were driven approximately 120 feet to hardpan, filled with concrete, and cutoff internally at the finish elevation approximately 40 feet below grade using a hydraulic cut off tool. The cut portion was then extracted and excavation to finish grade commenced.

This sectional Computational Fluid Dynamics view of the facility shows contour plots that illustrate the mixing effectiveness a diffuser matrix. This three dimensional model analyzed chlorine contact time to optimize disinfection for this 8.6 bgd facility.

Sodium hypochlorite feed room. A turndown of nearly 50:1 is provided for each constant speed magnetic drive centrifual pump through a system of backpressure and control valves.

To offset the loss of fish habitat in Conner Creek as a result of the construction work, a 1.75-acre oxbow and pond was constructed at a nearby park, to serve as a fish habitat and educational tool.

Another view of the Maheras/Gentry Park Fish Habitat Pond. Gazebo area and picnic amenities provide space for community events and barrier-free fishing .

The largest CSO control facility in the state of Michigan - work was completed four months ahead of schedule.

Hazen and Sawyer spearheaded a team of environmental professionals, to perform several studies that would establish key design criteria for the new CSO control facility. These included:

  • Disinfection study – to evaluate bacterial reduction and various combinations of disinfectant dose and contact time. Also examined degradation of sodium hypochlorite solutions during storage, to determine disinfection equipment sizing.
  • Mixing study – using Computerized Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling to evaluate various mixing technologies and optimize sizing of mixing equipment. This was followed by full-scale, large-channel testing at an independent laboratory, to determine how effectively disinfectant would be dispersed.
  • Hydraulic and automation control studies – to ensure the ability to control peak flows over the wide range that would be experienced.

These studies provided the necessary design basis parameters for the new CSO Control Facility, confirming its ability to meet permit requirements with five minutes of contact time at the 10-year, one hour peak flow of 13,262 cubic feet/second (8.6 billion gallons/day). Without these studies, the Michigan Department of Environmental Protection would have required the facility to provide ten minutes of contact time, doubling its size to 60 mgd, and significantly increasing its construction and operating costs.

The design included several innovative features. For example, flushing gates were provided to flush the basin of debris in a cost-effective and operationally simple manner, with low maintenance requirements – the first application of this European technology in the US. Also, a new dewatering technology, known as Geotubes, was used to dewater dredged sediment, combining hydraulically-dredged sediment with chemical polymers in large flexible fabric containers, enabling both the container and its sufficiently dewatered contents to be disposed of at a landfill after 30 days.

The Hazen and Sawyer team designed the facility to fit within a tight site. Construction required carefully-sequenced deep excavation (14 separate stages), involving the driving of 6,700 piles into soft clay soils, coupled with earth retention systems to avoid slope failure. Soil from the excavation was reused as backfill, saving millions of dollars compared with landfilling excavated soils and importing clean fill. Over 110,000 cubic yards of cast-in-place concrete and 16,000 tons of reinforcing steel were used in constructing the facility. Throughout the construction period, two existing CSO pumping stations and conveyance structures were maintained in operation.

To offset the loss of fish habitat in Conner Creek as a result of the construction work, a 1.75 acres oxbow and pond was constructed at a nearby park, to serve as a fish habitat and educational tool. In addition, to further improve the Creek’s water quality, nearly 160,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment was dredged as part of this project, eliminating the objectionable odors that had long been a nuisance to the adjacent community.

The facility was completed in July 2005, four months ahead of the date mandated by DWSD’s NPDES permit, and within the budget. The facility’s performance has met or exceeded all treatment objectives state in the NPDES permit.

For more information on this project, or to discuss a similar project in your area, contact

Peter Young, P.E. at