Berkley copes with flooding, city asks for feedback

While it's nothing compared to the devastation Hurricane Harvey is causing in Houston, the heavy rain has become a headache for a lot of families in Metro Detroit.

From flooded freeways that clogged the commute to water bubbling up in basements, Monday night's downpour took its toll.

"Seems like everyone south of 12 got hit pretty hard," said Jason Zmija, who helped a friend clean up flooded basement.

Flooded basements were especially prevalent in the area of Catalpa, just west of Coolidge. Even the Berkley City Hall got hit. 

"City Hall flooded. Like many of our residents we likewise had a backup of sewage," said City Manager Matthew Baumgarten.

The storm hit at about 6:30 Monday with a lot of rain in a short period of time. 

"I was at the grocery store and then my wife gave me a frantic call to hurry home," said Dan Grivej.

When Dan arrived at his new home he had moved into in May, he saw murky, cloudy brown water in his basement.

He has insurance and the adjuster came out hours after the flood. A typical 1,000 square-foot Berkley home could cost about $4,000 to clean if there's no insurance. But what about responsibly for these floods?

Dan Forman thinks the city is at fault for the flooding.

"They should make sure the sewers are adequate," he said.

Derrick Scheller, director of public works, said expanding the capacity of pipes is not easy and very expensive.

"If we go determined that this was a capacity issue that we just simply receive too much rain fall in too short of a time, it wasn't the fault of the system. The system functions, the system is maintained. Too much water at once creates a problem," he said.

The City of Berkley released the following statement:

"On August 28, 2017, the City of Berkley and the southeastern region of Oakland County experienced extreme rain and flash flooding. According to local sources, approximately two inches of rain fell in roughly a two hour timeframe. We typically see this amount of rainfall over a four week period.

"Department of Public Works crews are working to make sure that streets are passable, removing debris from the right-of-way. Restricted covers are in place on many catch basins to regulate the water flow into our combined sewer system. Please do not remove or dislodge these covers as it may cause additional issues for our system.

"Our initial analysis indicates that the sewer system performed as it was designed, but may have been overwhelmed by massive rain amounts over a short period of time. We are investigating this matter further and need assistance from residents to determine how many households experienced damage from basement flooding or backups. This will help us understand the full extent to which residents were impacted.

"Residents are respectfully asked to provide the address when the damaged and the approximate amount of water that entered their basement. Please send this information to We know this may be an inconvenience for some but this is the most efficient way to obtain this information. Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated.

"Public Act 222 of 2001 is the Michigan law that clarifies the conditions of when municipalities become liable for sewer backups. Anyone making a claim for damage or personal injury must prove that the public sewer had a defect. To pursue a claim against a governmental agency for damage resulting from basement flooding, the claimant must file a written notice of the claim to the agency within 45 days of the date that the damage was discovered. Claim forms are available on the City's website ... Hard copies are also available at Berkley City Hall. Claims will be submitted to the City's insurance company for disposition. The insurance company will contact claimants directly. Homeowners who experienced flooding or backups should also contact their insurance company immediately for assistance and direction.

"Updates to the rain event will be posted on the City's website as new information becomes available. Thank you for your patience as we continue to provide services to Berkley residents."