2018-05-13 / Insight

Battle against water

Drain Commission responsible for 600 miles of waterways
810-452-2601 • npugliese@gmail.com

LAPEER — You can’t fight water, you can only hope to contain it. Given enough time, water is the most destructive force on the planet, and it’s a constant battle to keep it from eroding roads, flooding yards and parks and generally causing a mess of infrastructure.

The battle against water in Lapeer County is waged from a third-floor office in the County Complex Building in downtown Lapeer, headed up by Joseph Suma. An elected official, Suma is halfway through his second term as Lapeer County Drain Commissioner, and it’s his job to monitor and maintain the nearly 600 miles of drains in the county.

“We have a multitude of drains in Lapeer County,” said Suma. Over 500 miles of open drainage webs across the county, as well as “about 40 miles” of tile drains. Tile, said Suma, is a type of drainage completely underground, and a lot of it is old — some over a century old, in fact. The drain system got its name by virtue of once upon a time being constructed from fired clay ceramic, though today’s tile drains are tile in name only, often constructed from precast concrete or plastic tubing.

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