Detroit launches $15M effort to curb basement backups in flood-prone neighborhoods
Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown unveiled a $15 million initiative Monday to assist homeowners in 11 flood-prone neighborhoods.
The Basement Backup Protection Program they said will safeguard properties during rainstorms by installing backwater valves and/or sump pumps starting with a $2.4 million pilot program launching this spring utilizing federal funds.
The city will begin the program in the Aviation Sub, along the Dearborn border on the west side, and Victoria Park neighborhoods, which Duggan and Brown noted were the hardest hit by backups and flooding during historic storms last summer that resulted in a presidential disaster declaration.
The city estimates 425 homes are eligible in Aviation Sub and 105 homes in Victoria Park.
On June 25 and 26, 6.5 inches of rain fell over 12 hours in Metro Detroit overwhelming infrastructure and causing freeways to close and residents to dump waterlogged basement belongings on their curbs.
"Everybody remembers last June when more than 30,000 basements backed up," said Duggan, adding last summer's rain totals surpassed those from a previous storm on Aug. 11, 2014. "If we can work it out in these first two (neighborhoods), we will work toward the affected (low-lying neighborhoods) in this city."
The second phase, which will launch in the summer, will tackle homes in Barton-McFarland, Chadsey Condon, Cornerstone Village, East English Village, Garden View, Jefferson Chalmers, Morningside, Moross-Morang and Warrendale. The neighborhoods were identified based on DWSD service requests for basement backups and claims, officials said.
The city is prepared to pay up to $6,000 per household to guard against basement backups and the effort will be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. It is expected to be completed by December 2024, officials said.
Many Detroiters have sewer lines that are more than 80 years old and are at risk for basement backups even on dry days, Brown said.
"This spring, a warranty service provider will begin offering homeowners a water service line and sewer line protection program with a monthly fee of $8 per house," he said.
Brown said that it will substantially relieve the cost of repair or replacement for broken lines, which he said could be more than $10,000.
Eight contractors have been identified for the work, five are Detroit-based. Contracts are pending City Council consideration this month.
"District 4 was dealt a horrible blow in the June 25-26 water backup. I was in the thick of campaigning at the time and didn't encounter one neighborhood that hadn't experienced a backup in the basement," District 4 Councilwoman Latisha Johnson said.
Contractors will conduct camera inspections of sewer lateral service lines, disconnect downspouts and install extensions 3 feet from the foundation. Sump pumps will be installed where needed.
Homeowners and landlords can apply online at www.detroitmi.gov/basementprotection.
Under the program, licensed plumbers will inspect sewer pipes with a camera to make sure they are in viable condition. If private sewer pipes are collapsed or damaged, homeowners will have to get repairs at their own expense, officials said.
DWSD will not repair or replace private sewer lines or private plumbing, Brown said. It also will not fix basement flooring or restore basement concrete. Homeowners will be responsible for power sources for the pumps.
"Please, if you're in one of the 11 neighborhoods, apply now," Brown said.
Landlords can qualify to receive up to 80% of the associated costs covered. The program is not offered to commercial property or nonprofits.
Approved homeowners will be required to pay a 10% deposit of the total cost to DWSD before the plumber can begin work. The deposit will be waived if the homeowner is income-qualified through the Water Residential Assistance Program or WRAP.
The water assistance program is open to those with an annual income of $53,000 or below for a family of four. It provides a $25 monthly bill credit for up to two years, up to $1,200 in credit for past due balances and up to $2,000 in minor plumbing repairs. Seniors 65 and up, persons with disabilities and veterans can receive the $25 monthly water bill credit for a lifetime once enrolled.
To apply, call DWSD at (313) 267-8000.