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Detroit announces plans to prevent street flooding

Detroit plans to lift up the grates and clean up the debris blocking catch basins underneath them.

Detroit is trying to prevent street flooding by regularly cleaning the sewer grates and catch basins on the side of the road.

The city announced the new program Tuesday.

“Lately we’ve been getting less frequent rain but the intensity of the rains has been more severe. So not only is it a nuisance but it also can be hazardous,” Detroit Water and Sewer Department’s chief engineer Palencia Mobley said.

It likely wouldn’t prevent major street flooding like what happened in 2014, but the situation should improve, Mobley said.

The city estimates 75% of the basins and drains are blocked with dirt and leaves. Typically, she says the city only clears the blockages when someone complains.

“So we’re trying to move from a responsive way of doing work to a planned way to do work,” Mobley said.

This is the first time since 2010 that the city has done regular cleanings this way, Mobley said.

The city announced it’s got a fleet of eight new trucks used to vacuum out dirt, leaves and anything else that blocks storm water grates and the catch basins beneath them.

They’re also moving to an electronic system that allows workers on site to put the location, type of basin, and the repairs needed as they move neighborhood by neighborhood. Mobley says it’s part of a larger program to clean out and inspect the city’s sewer system.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.