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Detroit residents file claims after flooding, but what can residents expect?

Durene Brown's basement has now flooded several times. She has yet to hear back about a claim filed in May.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Durene Brown's basement has now flooded several times. She has yet to hear back about a claim filed in May.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is about to process an “unprecedented” number of claims, although it’s uncertain what claimants can expect to get out of the process.

It’s the result of a July 8 rainstorm that caused sewage to back up into basements across a swath of Detroit’s east side. A similar, smaller event happened in the same area just last week.

DWSD has urged affected residents to file claims, and many have.

“Claims forms are coming in fast and furious, probably more than we’ve ever had on any one incident,” said DWSD spokeswoman Linda Clark. As of around 4 p.m. Monday, she said more than 1,000 people had filed claims. The deadline was midnight.

But it’s not yet clear what, if anything, residents can expect.

Durene Brown lives in the affected area on Detroit’s east side. She’s been waiting to hear back on a different claim she filed months ago, after a broken city tap line caused her yard and basement to flood in March.

“No one has given me any response whatsoever. It’s devastating,” Brown said.

“I’ve spent all of my money [on initial repairs], and I cannot get my basement cleaned again right now. And I’m concerned about mold, and the dried sludge, and the air quality in our house.”

Brown’s basement subsequently flooded, along with many of her neighbors’, in July, and again to a lesser degree this month. She again filed a claim, “but what’s the point of filing a claim if we don’t know what’s going to happen?” she asked.

Clark says DWSD is currently “developing the most expedient way of managing” the claims process, and “will make sure there is follow up with every single claim.”

The department sent contractors out to clean and sanitize some basements after the initial flooding, but there’s no designated pot of money to tap into for homeowner repairs. DWSD is still “working out all the details” of its response, according to Clark,

In the meantime, the repeated problems have grabbed the attention of the Great Lakes Water Authority, which now operates the larger infrastructure around Detroit’s water and sewer systems.

GLWA “has added staffing to its Conner Creek Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) facility so that it is manned on a 24/7 basis,” spokeswoman Amanda Abukhader said in a statement, adding that it “placed staff at its two pump stations located near the CSO, which are normally automated,” during the most major rainfall.

Further, “The GLWA is also continuing to look at its capital improvement plan to see where it can expedite projects that may assist in helping address this situation moving forward. This includes a $22.5 million infrastructure project scheduled to begin this fiscal year, which is now being given top priority."

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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