Great Lakes Water Authority denying all claims related to 2021 floods

The Great Lakes Water Authority which oversees the regional water collection system in Metro Detroit says it is denying all claims related to severe flooding in June 2021 made by victims.

GLWA said an independent investigation concluded that flooding from the historic event that damaged thousands of homes and left residents around the region with basements submerged in water was due to "heavy and historic rainfall" and was "not a defect in the regional collection system."

The agency said it would be denying all claims made by residents because the unprecedented rainfall was so widespread that flooding was inevitable during the June 25-26 event. It also said that agency couldn't be held liable for basement backup events if its sewage disposal system was less than 50% of the cause of the event.

"We understand the difficult situations homeowners and businesses face when flooding occurs," said Suzanne R. Coffey, GLWA’s Chief Executive Officer. "We are experiencing increased frequency and intensity of storms hitting our region. This is why it’s critical to focus on building resiliency in the regional system."

In total, GLWA denied 24,000 claims, 75% of which were from insurance companies and law firms. 

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The report that GLWA cited in its claims' denial said the rain event on June 25-26 dropped six inches of water over 12 hours, more than double what the agency's system is capable of handling. The regional water network is designed to handle 1.7 inches of rain in one hour, or 3.31 inches of rain over 24 hours. 

In addition to basement flooding, there were also closures on freeways after a power outage reported by DTE led to multiple pump stations failing to move water off of the roadway. In response, GLWA says it's updated the power systems at the Freud Pump Station and also installed monitoring systems at the three separate facilities. 

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It also said it is working on identifying funding for a flood risk study that would look at the feasibility of building giant wastewater storage areas and deep tunnels that could hold overflow when flooding occurs. 

FEMA has handled thousands of claims from the event, including more than 12,000 from seniors that suffered flooding damage to their homes.