House extends emergency declaration for Fraser sinkhole

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a resolution to extend Macomb County’s emergency declaration as officials work to fix a gaping Fraser sinkhole that could cost up to $100 million to repair.

The resolution by Rep. William Sowerby, D-Clinton Township, extends the emergency declaration until March 31 so local, state and federal resources can be coordinated to repair damage from the sinkhole. Those repairs are supposed to help avoid the potential for a severe rainstorm to overload the system and dump partially treated sewage into the river or even potentially into people’s basements, the Clinton Township Democrat said.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s emergency declaration, which began Dec. 24, is set to end Friday unless the state Senate votes to approve Sowerby’s resolution, which could happen as soon as Wednesday.

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners voted earlier in January to extend its emergency declaration through Feb. 9, but Snyder’s separate declaration allowed officials to tap resources from the state to help coordinate repair efforts.

So far, the sinkhole caused a sewer line to collapse in an area along 15 Mile in Fraser, which also partially collapsed a home and affected others. But about 500,000 people in the county could potentially be affected by sewer backups if it is not repaired, said Vicki Wolber, director of Macomb County’s Emergency Management Department.

The 100-foot-wide, 250-foot-long sinkhole opened on 15 Mile near Eberline on Dec. 24 after the county-owned Macomb Interceptor collapsed, displacing homeowners and spurring a temporary bypass of the ruptured line.

If the declaration isn’t extended, “then any resources that might become available wouldn’t be able to be tapped into,” Sowerby said. “So this just keeps that open.”

County officials have said the sinkhole was caused by the collapse of a leaking 3-mile long sewer main that transports sewage from Macomb County to a waste water treatment plant operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller has vowed that officials will fix the problem and has said she was “disappointed” that Snyder did not say more about the sinkhole during his 2017 State of the State address in January.