The Great Lakes Water Authority has determined that its water pump system was working efficiently during the June 25-26 rain event that flooded basements across Detroit and several suburbs.
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The regional water authority shared preliminary results from its internal investigation with the Detroit City Council on Tuesday during a flood update with DTE Energy and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). Detroit received several inches of rain in late June that left streets and homes flooded and caused thousands of dollars of damage per household. Climate change, outdated infrastructure and failing power systems have been suspected as causes for the excessive water buildup.
President Joe Biden declared the flood event a major disaster and ordered recovery effort assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration (SBA). Detroiters had 45 days to file damage claims across federal, state, regional and local entities for potential reimbursement.
“Given the amount and intensity of the rainfall that occurred during the June 25-26 rain event, there would have been widespread regional flooding even if the pump stations had all external power and all pumps had operated as designed without any interruption,” Suzanne Coffey told City Council.
Coffey was recently appointed as the interim chief executive officer of the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) after her successor retired last month. Coffey said GLWA team members followed standard operating procedures at the Conner Creek and Freud pump stations, where power was down during the rainstorm. GLWA has since updated its standard operating procedures with rules to notify its executive office during excessive rain.
Other updates are expected to take much longer. The Conner Creek Pump Station is being rehabilitated at a cost of $250 million over eight years. GLWA has also repaired power sources and installed power quality monitors.
The final results of the internal investigation are expected to be shared with the public in October, Coffey said.
FEMA visited Detroit homes and businesses late summer to understand the extent of the damage and begin the claims process. The federal agency has approved over 42,000 individual assistance applications and approved nearly $100 million in housing assistance and almost $24 million in assistance for other needs.
GLWA has received over 17,000 claims, and DWSD has received 27,000 claims.
Palencia Mobley, deputy director and chief engineer at DWSD, told Council that the department has completed over 34,000 investigations. The water department’s claims have been handed off to a third-party administrator and are currently under review. No Detroiters have been denied or offered settlements at this time, and it is expected to take 90 days to determine if claimants will be reimbursed.
Until then, GLWA, DWSD and DTE Energy representatives say they are working together more efficiently by communicating more frequently and sending media alerts for anticipated severe weather alerts in southeast Michigan.