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

The Detroit News

A group of Grosse Pointe Park residents is suing Metro Detroit’s regional water authority and others over damage from widespread flooding during a late June storm.

The 11 homeowners filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Wayne County Circuit Court against the Great Lakes Water Authority, the cities of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. 

Flood-damaged furniture and possessions are left on the curb of a home in Grosse Pointe Park on Monday, June 28, 2021, one of many to sustain water damage.

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

They allege the wastewater ended up in their homes because of equipment failures at two Detroit pumping stations.

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

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

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Furthermore, the homeowners accuse officials with the authority, the cities and the water department of knowing for years their water and sewer systems are inadequate to handle heavy storms and have failed to address the problem.

A status conference for the case has been scheduled for Oct. 12 before Judge Annette Berry, according to court records.

Great Lakes Water Authority issued a statement from its general counsel Randal Brown in response to news of the lawsuit:

"Yesterday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested that President Joe Biden declare the June 25-26, 2021, rain event a major disaster. GLWA supports Gov. Whitmer's request for federal aid to provide residents and businesses in the impacted areas with the resources to rebuild after the floods. Seeking federal aid is the appropriate way to address this unprecedented event.

"With regard to the lawsuit, GLWA has not had an opportunity to review it nor do we comment on pending litigation." 

Ven Johnson Law said it has been retained by numerous property owners in Grosse Pointe and Detroit to pursue damage claims against the water authority and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The firm also says it anticipates filing a class action lawsuit.

"DWSD takes in nearly half of a billion dollars in water and sewer fees annually, yet aging water and sewer lines under their purview regularly fail, devastating anything and everything caught in the path of these floodwaters," Paul Doherty, an attorney with the firm and a flood victim, said in a statement posted on its web site.

"Local residents are at the mercy of faceless local bureaucrats who literally put their constituents’ safety at risk by not investing in proper infrastructure. This flooding has upended lives causing stress and a feeling of powerlessness, and a huge financial strain of rebuilding homes or businesses."