Claims from Historic Rainstorm in June 2021 Denied by Great Lakes Water Authority

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) in Detroit today announced it is denying all claims submitted to the authority related to the historic rain event that took place during June 2021.
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The Great Lakes Water Authority will deny all claims related to the flooding caused by historic rainfall in Detroit last summer. // Photo by Dan Austin
The Great Lakes Water Authority will deny all claims related to the flooding caused by historic rainfall in Detroit last summer. // Photo by Dan Austin

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) in Detroit today announced it is denying all claims submitted to the authority related to the historic rain event that took place during June 2021.

GLWA states it made the decision based on two factors.

First are the findings of the independent investigation conducted on last summer’s historic rain events, which determined widespread basement flooding was inevitable due to the unprecedented amount and intensity of the rainfall that occurred on June 25 and 26 of 2021; and that even if every piece of piping and equipment in the regional system worked in an ideal manner, basement backups and surface flooding would still have occurred in GLWA’s system or any other collection system designed to today’s standard.

The second is that under Michigan’s Governmental Liability for Negligence Act, a public entity such as GLWA can only be liable for a sewage disposal system event (a basement backup) if a defect in its sewage disposal system was the substantial proximate cause — 50 percent or more — of the event and property damage or physical injury.

“We understand the difficult situations homeowners and businesses face when flooding occurs,” says Suzanne R. Coffey, CEO of the GLWA. “We are experiencing increased frequency and intensity of storms hitting our region. This is why it’s critical to focus on building resiliency in the regional system.

“Even before the release of the final report from the independent investigators, GLWA began working to implement key infrastructure and process improvements to help address the stresses put on an infrastructure system not built for this level of rain. We remain committed to doing everything within our power and to working closely with our infrastructure partners in southeast Michigan to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

The short-term actions that GLWA has taken to improve climate resiliency in the regional system over the last year can be found here.

One of the most significant improvements made to-date is related to the supply of power to the Freud and Blue Hill Pump Stations on Detroit’s east side. Recently, GLWA and its contractors completed the installation of three new transformers at the Freud Pump Station and successfully converted the external power supply feeding the transformers to DTE Energy power via three independent power feeds.

Additionally, two transformers at the Blue Hill Pump Station have been converted to the DTE Energy power grid and are fully operational.

GLWA has also begun working with its legislators to identify funding at the federal level for a flood risk mitigation study for southeast Michigan. If funded, the study will be conducted in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and will evaluate the implementation of concepts such as wastewater storage at grade or deep tunnel levels, using pumping stations for discharge, constructing large diameter relief sewers, and strategic sewer separation to address the long-term impacts of climate change.

While GLWA works on building system resiliency, the authority says it cannot address these challenges alone. Steps property owners can take to protect their assets in the future include disconnecting downspouts, checking basement walls and foundation for leaks, disposing of grease properly, and snaking drains and the sewer lateral service line every two years.