Mexico Public Works provides annual update

Department has plenty of projects in 2022

Erik Richardson, Correspondent
Posted 5/13/22

Drew Williford, assistant city engineer, recently gave the Public Works Department’s annual update at a Mexico City Council meeting, and it is hard not to be impressed by how much they do to …

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Mexico Public Works provides annual update

Department has plenty of projects in 2022


Drew Williford, assistant city engineer, recently gave the Public Works Department’s annual update at a Mexico City Council meeting, and it is hard not to be impressed by how much they do to keep the structure of this city running like clockwork.

Mexico’s Public Works Department is made up of three major divisions: The Engineering Division, the Street Division, and the Wastewater Division. To provide a clear picture, Williford’s presentation was organized by division, providing an overview of each and sharing major projects.

Wastewater Division

The Wastewater Division currently has a team of six employees with an additional two vacancies. For a small team, it might surprise you to learn that they oversee the treatment of an average daily flow of 2.34 million gallons of water, as well as maintaining 45 electric motors, 24 pumps, five blowers and over 100 ultra-violet bulbs.

As they plan for the renewal of their DNR Plant Operating Permit, they are planning ahead and already starting to evaluate some of the new standards being put in place, including lower targets for the phosphorus and nitrogen levels in treated water. This prevents excessive algae growth and oxygen imbalances that can harm the ecosystem.

The 2021 projects included replacing diffusers in the aeration basin and removing an incredible crowd of snails. The snails build up and cover the diffusers preventing oxygen from being added into the system. In the end, it took a semi-tanker - think of the ones that deliver gas to stations - 103 loads of snails and water.

The same crew also oversees the wastewater collection system, which covers 94 miles of main pipelines that use gravity to move the water, more than enough to stretch to Columbia and back, if laid out end to end. The system also has 15 lift stations and 4.8 miles of main that use pumps to move the water.

In 2021, the department oversaw the lining of nearly 7,000 feet of main as well as a pilot project that used sound waves to review approximately 6,000 feet of main. They inspected 66 manholes, cleared nearly 59,000 feet of main, and used video cameras to inspect about 30,000 feet more.

The other part of their role is the monitoring of 8 pretreatment facilities located around the area. This part of the process helps to regulate the rate of chemicals that are discharged into the sewer system by industries. The monitoring ensures the chemical volume stays well within treatable levels as set by the Department of Natural Resources.

Street Division

The Street Division of the Public Works Department handles street maintenance, storm sewer maintenance, and all the snow removal operations. This team has seven people, and they, too, have two additional vacancies.
To appreciate the scale of what they do, over the course of the year, this division is tasked with maintaining and repairing 78.6 miles of streets, two miles of alleys, all the city-owned sidewalks, and a little over 3,000 street signs.
Among the 2021 projects they managed to accomplish concrete patching, asphalt patching and overlays, and patching up the potholes that are always hungry and looking for a tire (or small car) to swallow.

The stormwater system also comes under the management of the street division, and covers 885 inlets (storm drains), 19.5 miles of main, and 124 junction boxes for pipes to intersect and change direction as well as allowing for maintenance access.
In 2021 they also replaced the culvert at Maple and Wade as well as one on Hanley, conducted concrete patching on portions of the Town Branch from Quantico to Liberty, and did additional ditch digging, grading and culvert cleaning at the airport.

The last part of the work cycle for street division is snow removal, including not just the actual treatment and clearing of roadways, but the material and equipment upkeep as well. In 2021 they used 100 tons of salt (roughly 10 loads with a single-axle dump truck), 300 tons of cinders (imagine 30 dump truck loads), and 10,000 gallons of brine, which is used to pretreat roadways (picture a tank 12 feet in diameter and about 13 feet high).

Engineering Division

This division is different than the others, in that they have only a two-person team, but they interact with the other divisions in various roles, instead of taking on maintenance and repair projects of their own.

In 2021 they conducted survey and design on transportation maintenance projects, the Smiley Drive extension, the Harbison Walker International sanitary sewer project, and the Pollock Road Culvert Replacement.

They also provided inspection for annual street maintenance projects, which this year included enough sealing of cracks and joints to cover a total area equal to about 6 miles of street, over 39,000 square yards of chip sealing (about enough to completely cover between 2.5 and three miles of two-lane roads), and 12,593 square yards of asphalt resurfacing (the equivalent area of just under a mile of two-lane roadways).

On top of those already impressive numbers, they provided subdivision inspections, right of way inspections, and extensive work on the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). The MS4 involved reviewing construction plans, maintenance agreements, public education and outreach, and inspection and testing.

Looking forward into 2022, major upcoming projects include:

  • Replacing the aged HVAC system in the Finals Building, which houses the large pumps to move wastewater between two processing locations before it leaves the facility.
  • With the Pollock Road Culvert replacement survey and design completed, the department is scheduled to implement the replacement in the year ahead.
  • Additional Cured-In-Place pipe lining will be installed for sanitary sewer mains to reduce the amount of groundwater and tree roots getting in, and reinforce the structure of the pipeline.
  • The department is also scaling up the Dukes 360 project. This is a combination of evaluation (using sound waves) and flow meters that helps the city pinpoint where large sources of stormwater or groundwater may be entering the system. The pilot project was so successful last year that the Public Works Department is nearly tripling the size this year.

Other projects on the schedule include ADA sidewalk Improvements, the Lakeview Spillway Project (which you might remember reading about in the Parks Department update), and the Mars Street survey and design.

The extension of Mars Street has been on the city’s long-range plan for some time and provides a practical extension to connect the current dead end of Mars St to Rt J. Doing this will add another option for east-west travel throughout the north end of town and provides residents with options for ingress/egress. Survey and design work are in progress with hopes to begin construction in 2022.

“One moment you may be working on a transportation project to increase traffic safety,” he said, “and the next moment you may be working on a stormwater or wastewater project to replace aging infrastructure, but every one of those projects has an impact on quality of life for the residents. That feeling of improving the community every day is why I consider it a blessing to be in this position.”


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