Check valve installation could help prevent sewage floods in your basement

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit leaders say FEMA had crews in the city Monday as it worked to set up an office to serve flood victims.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says about 20,000 claims for flood damage were filed in Detroit alone in the past month. And then we saw flooding again on Friday.

There have also been floods in other communities, from the Grosse Pointes to Dearborn and Garden City, to name a few.

“We need to take a serious look at what’s going on at the Great Lakes Water Authority,” said Detroit mayor Mike Duggan.

“We want an independent investigation to be done and it’s underway,” said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Brown says the board is working on hiring an independent firm to determine what went wrong and how to prevent it.

“I will tell you that in these storms we are so far beyond the volume and frequency that local systems, regional systems, many systems have been challenged in this. That doesn’t make us feel good,” said Sue McCormick, Chief Executive Officer of the Great Lakes Water Authority.

McCormick says that while we got more than twice as much rain as the system could withstand last month, it’s possible the authority made mistakes to exacerbate flooding.

“I think there is potential for liability for the Great Lakes Water Authority, but that will be determined in the analysis after the event,” McCormick said.

She says independent investigations will work to determine whether power companies are to blame for outages, Mother Nature or the government because, for example, some pumps were out of service before the storm. The responsibility will take some time.

Gary Brown says the long-term solution is clear. The region needs to separate its storm and sewer drains so storms don’t send sewage into homes.

“The long-term solution is to separate the rainwater from the sewer. And that is a very expensive job. Some people estimate it would cost $17 billion in the state of Michigan, $8 billion in the city of Detroit alone,” Brown said.

In the short term, you will be called upon to protect your homes with pump pumps and valves.

“You should consider putting a check valve on your sewer line,” Brown said.

“It actually has a door here that lets water out, but then closes, so when there’s flooding from the city, it doesn’t get into your system,” said Michael Kish, a master plumber at Motor City Plumbing & Drain, as he WXYZ showed a check valve.

Kish says his team installs many for people. The valves have been required under code for some time for homes with basements, but older homes don’t have them.

Mayor Duggan says he is investigating a program to help people with older homes get them as a short-term solution.

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