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Eastpointe frustrated by Warren wastewater plant delays

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Eastpointe is going public about a lawsuit it has filed against neighboring Warren after officials said they have grown concerned about the pace of repairs to a wastewater treatment plant they say caused sewage flooding and damaged roads.

City Manager Steve Duchane said Monday he had not heard any follow-up from Warren in recent months, causing him to break a deal with Warren officials to not let the public know about the lawsuit.

The legal action was prompted by what Eastpointe said were defects in the Warren Wastewater Treatment Plant on Warkop that led to feces, dirt and other debris washing up into yards and ruining infrastructure Eastpointe built when it was making upgrades to area streets.

Warren officials say they are working to remediate the issue by buying a property that will hold the excess storm water in a retention basin. However, those negotiations are in progress.

“We have been working feverishly to get a solution for this,” said Richard Sabaugh, public service director for Warren. “It’s not as if we are sitting on our hands doing nothing.”

But that solution isn’t coming fast enough for Eastpointe.

Duchane said there have been at least four incidents where plant sewage overflowed onto Eastpointe private and business property, mainly in the 9 Mile and Beechwood area. The most severe flood damage came during a heavy storm Aug. 11, 2014.

Duchane said Eastpointe first alerted Warren of the issues in 2014 and sent the city a formal notice of damages.

“Basically at that time they weren’t very concerned or they said they had other priorities,” he said.

Sabaugh said building the retention basin to mitigate flooding was more of a “long range solution” for Warren. The city started negotiating a deal for a property about eight months ago, he said.

Sabaugh said he told Duchane Warren was working on a plan earlier this year when he learned Eastpointe was filing the lawsuit. The two cities agreed to not involve the media at the time the lawsuit was filed Aug. 12 in Macomb Circuit Court.

“We don’t want to be lost in their priorities over there,” he said.

Duchane said Eastpointe is not seeking money, but for Warren to correct the issues that are causing the wastewater plant to flood.

Eastpointe has covered costs for storm basin damages, sanitary clean-up and other issues caused by the overflows. Duchane was unable to provide the exact amount the city spent on fixes.

“We don’t see this as something that municipalities should fight about,” he said. “You at least want to stop the initial problem and that’s where the money should go.”

The announcement of the lawsuit comes as Warren Mayor Jim Fouts has been embroiled in the past two weeks with Macomb County leaders and the South Macomb Disposal Authority over what he called a cover-up of “illegal dumping” over an old landfill at Freedom Hill Ampitheatre.

Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley is the secretary for the authority, which has jurisdiction over the old landfill. Fouts said work at Freedom Hill broke methane gas vents, toppled trees and caused leachate to leak from the capped site.

Fouts declined to comment on the lawsuit but said he was shocked Eastpointe would sue his city.

“It’s unprecedented for one city to sue another city,” he said.

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