Great Lakes Water Authority forms committee to study response to June rainfall

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Great Lakes Water Authority announced Wednesday the formation of a committee to investigate the authority's response to the June 25-26 rainfall, which resulted in flooding in thousands of homes in Detroit, the Dearborn area and the Grosse Pointes and closed freeways.

"One of the committee's first actions will be to hire an engineering firm and a legal firm to assist them in their review,” said a statement from Michelle A. Zdrodowski, chief public affairs officer for the water authority.

The committee "will lead the board's independent investigation," Zdrodowski's statement said.

Three members of the committee include a Wayne County representative, John Zech; Macomb County representative Brian Baker; and Gary Brown, one of the two water authority appointees representing Detroit.

Candice Miller, the public works commissioner for Macomb County, has called for an independent investigation into the shortcomings of the Conner Creek and Freud pump stations. 

After the storm, Miller credited "actions taken by Macomb County Public Works employees" with the relatively minimal basement flooding in Michigan's third-largest county.

Across the county line in Detroit and the Grosse Pointes, flooding was worse. 

Pictures:Detroit, Grosse Pointe Park families clean up after weekend flooding

Miller said Wednesday she is "satisfied the investigation of the ad hoc committee will start to get some answers."

Earlier Wednesday, 11 families in the Grosse Pointe area sued the water authority. They allege wastewater ended up in their homes because of equipment failures at two Detroit pumping stations.

More:Grosse Pointe Park homeowners sue water authority, others over June 26 flood

Members of the group, which is represented by Ven Johnson Law PLC in Detroit, claim in the lawsuit that more than 8 feet of sewage backed up into each of their  basements and caused more than $300,000 in damage during the June 26 storm.

The homeowners allege water authority officials either failed to recognize weather reports or disregarded them.

The homeowners accuse officials with the water authority, the cities of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, and the Detroit water department of knowing for years that their water and sewer systems are inadequate to handle heavy storms but failing to fix the problem.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said this week that more than 24,000 households have submitted flood damage claims following historic storms that weekend that dumped more than 6 inches of rainfall in the area over a five-hour span.

The water department itself was affected by the heavy rains.

The boardroom of the water board's building, at 735 Randolph in downtown Detroit, also flooded, said Bryan Peckinpaugh, spokesman for the water department, in a statement.

"During rain events, the roof on our building holds water then slowly releases it," he said. "During the rainstorm on June 25-26, there was too much volume in that 6-inch rain and it caused water damage to the ceiling and floor of the board room."

The room has since been cleaned and dried out. No meetings have been held  there since before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We are getting estimates for restoration," Peckinpaugh said.