New Detroit law aims to reduce sewage overflows, backups
Detroit — The city has adopted a law aimed at reducing sewage overflows and basement backups.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation that calls for stormwater management features, such as rain gardens and water retention ponds, on certain future development and redevelopment projects.
Detroit's first-ever Post-Construction Stormwater Management Ordinance has been in the works since 2015 in the wake of a requirement established two years earlier mandating the development of stormwater controls, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said in a news release.
Work on the ordinance began after Metro Detroit rainfall overwhelmed the city's combined sewer system, causing 60,000 basements to flood.
Detroit residents were affected in 2016 by a round of summer rainstorms that flooded homes.
Development and redevelopment activities in Detroit have not been subject to stormwater management requirements. The lack of regulation, water officials said, has contributed to overflows of untreated sewage entering the Detroit and Rouge rivers, localized flooding and basement backups.
“Like other communities across our state and nation — especially those with a combined sewer system — we need to manage our stormwater where it falls," said Palencia Mobley, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department deputy director and chief engineer, in a statement.
"Because of our land mass and the nearby waterways, Detroit has a unique opportunity to partner with public and private developers to become the greenest city in America.”
The water department said the ordinance will apply to any project that will displace at least one-half acre of natural land with a hard surface, or replaces an existing hard surface, such as a building or parking lot, which creates stormwater runoff in the city’s combined sewer system.
Acceptable projects include retention basins and ponds, cisterns, bioretention gardens, bioswales and pervious pavement, officials said.
The Detroit Board of Water Commissioners approved the ordinance and a fee structure in August. A review and inspection fee is $2,550. Additional reviews are $400, and additional inspections are $750, the water department said.
A certificate of occupancy will not be issued by the City of Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department if a property owner or developer does not meet the ordinance requirement, the water department said.
The council’s approval Tuesday was the final step in making the rules effective before 2019.