Frustration Remains Following Meeting on Grosse Pointe Farms Floods
Many residents left without the answers they were hoping to get. Meanwhile some actions are being taken while officials continue their investigation.
Grosse Pointe Farms residents filled the ballroom of the War Memorial Thursday night spilling into the lobby to hear answers from city officials about the most recent raw sewage and storm water backup into their basements.
Many left in frustration or irritation before the meeting adjourned shortly after 11 p.m.
Residents spoke of their damaged goods, their stress, their irritation and most of all, their frustrations. They are frustrated the city doesn't have many of the answers they seek, namely how the problem is going to be fixed to prevent such flooding from happening yet again.
Ultimately, they want to know if, and when, they should fix their basements from the most recent flooding Sept. 9 to 10, especially considering many had only recently finished the repairs to the same area from similar flooding in May.
The council along with Mayor James Farquhar, City Manager Shane Reeside, most of the department heads, representatives from the contracted engineering firm, Hubble, Roth & Clarke, and DTE answered questions throughout the four hour special meeting.
Reeside said repeatedly that city officials are investigating the exact cause for the Sept. 10 flooding. The circumstances leading to the flooding on May 25 vary a lot from Sept. 10, Reeside said.
The suspicion is that the mechanism responsible for switching the pump operation from one main line of power to the other when power is lost to the first malfunctioned, councilman Peter W. Waldmeir said afterward.
The pump station is set up with three sources of power: two main lines serviced by DTE and a backup generator. The system is designed to automatically switch sources of power if one goes down but officials believe that didn't happen when the first main line began experiencing a power shortage or outage.
The station was not manned and therefore there was some response time necessary for a person to drive to the station to determine the problem. Officials do not know however, if indeed this was the only problem or if there are more that are contributing to the situation.
While both city officials and DTE officials conduct their investigations, the city is taking action as a measure to prevent another such occurrence, Reeside said.
- Since the May flooding, the city has installed more than 30 restricted manhole covers, which reduce the rate at which the water enters the sewer system. This is a strategy employed in Grosse Pointe Woods to help ease or provide relief from basement flooding.
- More than 10,000 linear feet of sewer lines in the inland district have been video surveilled and cleaned in the inland district.
- City officials met with the Department of Environmental Quality earlier this summer in regards to a comprehensive study of the pump station.
- The city has re-initiated its downspout inspection program. An ordinance restricts downspouts from flowing directly into the sewer system.
In addition to the city's efforts, DTE is also taking several investigative steps:
- Completing a capacity study on the main power lines to the station.
- Checking the trees along the main sources of power to ensure none are interfering.
- Helping the city install electrical monitors at the pump station to measure the consistency and quality of power going into the station.
Grosse Pointe Farms also intends to have the pump station manned 24 hours per day until the exact problem is revealed and handled.
Dozens of residents lined up throughout the meeting to ask questions. Many referred to the inland district as the area of the city that is forgotten or ignored by city officials and listed the flooding as one more way in which they are treated differently than the rest of the city. One resident even referred to it as "the armpit of the Farms."
Residents also asked questions about the city's insurance policies, premiums and coverage. They asked very specific questions about the pump station, about specific pumps and about a backup generator.
The separation of the combined storm water/raw sewage removal system was brought up several times as well. According to a study done in the late 1990s, the estimate to get the system separated was about $24 million—an amount that was not financially feasible at the time.
Councilmen Louis Theros and Waldmeir tried to reassure the crowd that despite the class action lawsuit filed this week in the May 25 flooding, the city was doing its best to provide information and answers. Theros went on to say that often a lawsuit would have impeded such a meeting from even happening but they were not allowing that to happen.
To end the meeting, Farquhar told those remaining in the audience that even though it may seem as if the city isn't doing much or taking the flooding issue seriously, they are. He explained there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on by all departments and a true desire to solve the problem.