Judge dismisses Oakland Co. lawsuit over 2016 Macomb Co. sinkhole

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A judge has dismissed Oakland County officials' lawsuit against a Macomb County sewer district over a sinkhole caused by a sewer main collapse in December 2016.

The ruling is the latest in a legal battle over who is responsible for the football-field-sized sinkhole that appeared on 15 Mile Road near Utica Road in the Macomb County city of Fraser.

An area where a broken sewer line caused a football field-sized sinkhole in Fraser.

On Friday, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews dismissed the lawsuit filed by Oakland-Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District, or OMID, in April. The suit alleged officials with the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District, or MIDD, were to blame for the sewer line collapse that caused the sinkhole.

Candice Miller, who is the MIDD's manager and Macomb County's Public Works Commissioner, said the decision bolsters her office's efforts to recover the $75 million cost of repairing the sinkhole.

“We tried to talk (the) OMID out of it, but they would not be dissuaded," Miller said in a statement. "This was a very expensive, unnecessary exercise.

"Now that it has been dismissed, we can put all of our focus on negotiations with the insurance carrier, so we can recoup our expenses in the costly repair of the 15 Mile Road interceptor.”

But Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash said he's concerned about a potential judgment, especially one over the $52 million insurance cap.

"If there was any judgment above that, it would have to go ratepayers or we'd have to go to the court," he said. "... Our most important concern is protecting the ratepayers."

Nash also said he's not received details of a claim.

The Oakland-Macomb Interceptor is the sole sewage transmission line for 850,000 customers in 25 municipalities in Macomb and Oakland counties. It is supervised by Nash, Michigan Department of Agriculture representative Mike Greg and Miller. 

The Macomb Interceptor connects to the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor and transports sewage from 11 northern Macomb County communities into a network that eventually leads to a wastewater treatment plant in Detroit. 

Miller said she opposed the OMID's decision to sue the MIDD.

“They filed this suit solely to obstruct and interfere with MIDD’s effort seeking an insurance recovery related to water hammers caused by an OMID construction project," she said. "That effort has now failed. All we have ever been seeking is payment for our loss in the 15 Mile Road collapse."