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GLWA CEO McCormick resigns in wake of June floods

Great Lakes Water Authority

The Great Lakes Water Authority’s board of directors accepted CEO Sue McCormick’s resignation on Wednesday.

McCormick and the southeast Michigan regional water utility have been under fire since heavy rains caused major flooding in and around Detroit on June 26. That flooding was exacerbated by problems at a pumping stationon Detroit’s east side.

GLWA officials told board members on Wednesday that those problems were caused by a substation power outage that started four days before the flooding. It was caused by sub-contractor crews who cut power lines doing maintenance at the Ludden substation. GLWA staff noted the outage, but didn’t pass the information on to management. Power wasn’t restored there until June 30.

GLWA board member and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown said that lack of communication is a problem.

“It’s just inherently incredible that that information would not have been passed on to the [chief operating officer], or someone in an executive management position,” Brown said. “But be that as it may, it wasn’t, and we probably need to fix it.”

McCormick said that GLWA staff followed proper standard operating procedure. But board member Jaye Quadrozzi said that’s a problem, too. “If everyone followed the procedures and this was still the outcome, then the procedures need to be adjusted,” she said.

The board also hired former U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins and engineering firm AECOM to do an outside investigation of the utility’s infrastructure and its performance during the flood event. Some regional leaders, including Macomb County Public Works DirectorCandice Miller, had requested such a review.

McCormick has led GLWA since its inception in 2016, coming out of Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy. She will depart within 60 days. Board members said they hoped to quickly find interim leadership in the meantime.

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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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