Jul 19, 2021
Heavy rains caused flooding in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs for the second time in three weeks.
During the earlier rain storms on June 25–26, at least two pumping stations on Detroit’s east side, the Conner Creek and Freud stations, failed due to power outages. The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) was slow in providing backup power to the stations.
For that and other reasons, thousands of homes flooded, many with raw sewage that dumped into the storm drainage system. Major freeways became flooded, and many drivers’ cars became submerged. I-94 remained closed for days and required major repairs from the flooding.
Detroit officials say that over 24,000 homeowners reported flooding from the June rains, with at least 1,000 reporting dire conditions.
After the June floods, residents of nearby suburb Dearborn held demonstrations to protest the lack of preparation for the flooding and came out in force to speak out at a recent City Council meeting. The area experienced major flooding just seven years prior, in 2014.
Dearborn residents point out that the main flooding took place in the city’s East End, which has a higher concentration of working class and lower-income residents. Hussein Berry, a candidate for mayor, points out that when the city made repairs to its sewers and added giant pipes called “Interceptor Lines” that use pumps to push water to discharge stations, no Interceptor Lines were installed in the city’s East End. He also points out that while the West End, the more affluent section of Dearborn, has 13 discharge stations, the East End has only two.
Residents of another suburb neighboring Detroit, Grosse Pointe Park, filed a lawsuit against the GLWA, saying officials knew of the “infrastructure deficiencies” for years and did nothing to put in place an emergency plan in case of these kinds of heavy rain events. Deficiencies by the GLWA would hardly be surprising given its history. The GLWA was formed after the City of Detroit went into bankruptcy. As part of the bankruptcy settlement, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) was swallowed up into the GLWA and laid off 41% of its workforce. Prior to that time, those workers helped the DWSD to be considered as one of the best operating water departments in the country.
The latest rains have simply added insult to injury. Water officials claim to have solved the problems of pump failures, yet at least one station, the Blue Hill Pump Station in Detroit, experienced a power failure. The news media quoted numerous residents reporting flooding similar to what others reported back in June.
These types of flood damage are the result of politicians “kicking the can down the road” for decades on infrastructure repairs and improvements, or when repairs are made, looking out for the interests of the wealthy and the corporations at the expense of the rest of the population. The last thing anyone can expect is for them to make their rich benefactors pay the bill.