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By Joe Hoshaw, Jr.

A Trenton company is taking on a leadership role in a fast-growing segment of the irrigation business, converting schools and businesses from city water systems to self-sustaining systems run from river water or retaining ponds.

                Apex Systems Inc. just this summer converted the six athletic fields and other property near Grosse Ile Middle School to a system that pumps water directly from the Detroit River.

                “This irrigation improvement will save the school district tens of thousands of dollars per year on water costs by disconnecting all of their currently irrigated athletic fields from the municipal water supply and re-supplying these systems with water from the Detroit River,” said Jeff Jones, the company’s owner.

                The $160,000 project included the addition of irrigation systems for four baseball/softball fields, two practice football/soccer fields, high school frontage and administration building frontage.

Jones said the system includes a state-of-the-art variable speed 40-horsepower pump station capable of delivering up to 600 gallons per minute at 115 psi. The pump was brought in by barge by Hurst Marine Contractors & Salvage Inc. and permanently stationed along the shoreline just east of the school.

                It’s a growing trend — and a growth avenue that Apex has wholeheartedly pursued.

                “This is the fastest growing segment of our business,” Jones said.

                The company also is participating in a five-year project that eventually will move the expansive Michigan Memorial Park cemetery from city-water irrigation to a system that will draw all its water from retention ponds.

                “Water costs have gone up nearly double in the last 10 years and there’s no sign they’re not going to do that again in the next 10 years,” Jones said. “There is a lot of expense to get water for drinking that’s not required for irrigation; and the nice thing is that these are not projects that take 20 years to pay back. Most of our projects like that are one to five years.

                “So, most of the green conversion projects pay off really quickly.”

                The Grosse Ile system, which includes about seven miles of new piping — including a 6-inch diameter main supply to feed existing and newly irrigated athletic fields — was designed by Geoff Graber of Graber and Associates, one of the country’s leading irrigation designers. It is extremely high-tech and includes 20 miles of control and communications wire and a sophisticated weather-monitor system that ensures the system doesn’t waste energy by running unnecessarily.

                “This irrigation system will be one of the most technologically advanced systems in the country,” Jones said.

                Apex Systems is in its fifth year of operation and is the fastest growing irrigation contracting company in southeast Michigan. The company specializes in the installation and service of irrigation systems for homes, businesses, condominiums and sport fields. Apex has already installed 17 new athletic field systems between Wayne and Monroe counties in less than five years.

                “Water and labor are the greatest costs of maintaining safe athletic fields today,” Jones said. “We at Apex Systems strive to find better ways to manage those costs through the use of smarter control systems, on-site weather monitoring and alternative water resources.”

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