Burst Mains Continue Flooding Detroit Streets And Basements

February 12, 2014, 7:40 AM

Streets are awash from snapped water mains in dozens of Detroit areas -- a vivid example of how aging underground utilities are vulnerable in extreme weather.

Tally of trouble from WXYZ on Tuesday.

There's "a growing backlog of more than 120 water-main breaks across the city," reports in the Free Press, attributing that figure to the city water department. The largest is a ruptured 30-inch main on Buchanan Street near McKinley in Southwest Detroit, as shown above in WXYZ helicopter footage (video below). 

Mayor Mike Duggan's office on Tuesday night said valves in that area were closed and work crews were pump water from the street and removing stuck vehicles, The Detroit News reports. Part of Buchanan remains shut for rebuilding.

Here's some of what John Wisely and Robert Allen report in the Freep: 

Crews worked underground at Buchanan and McKinley more than eight hours Tuesday to stem the flooding. Temperatures hovered around 10 degrees, well below mid-February’s average highs of about 35. . . .

“This winter has been very brutal on our infrastructure,” said Darryl Latimer, deputy director of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. . . .

“I’ve been with the department going on 25 years, and I haven’t seen a winter quite this bad," Laitner said. . . . He said that last month, the city had more than 500 water-line breaks — a substantial increase from 303 in January 2013.

Checker cab is abandoned on ice-clogged Southwest Detroit street. (WXYZ image)

Alexis Wiley, spokeswoman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, tells the paper that long-range improvements to the system are delayed because of Detroit’s bankruptcy problems.

Amid the series of gushing pipes, commissioners from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb are debating the future of Detroit's tricounty water system.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr wants to form a regional authority to run it while the city collects a lease payment on the department’s assets. County commissioners want more financial data and engineering studies that confirm the condition of plants, pumps and pipes.

The current flooding reinforces the need for a regional approach, state Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, tells The News.

“It underscores the need of regular maintenance for the system that I think DWSD has been neglecting for far too long,” Heise said, adding he wondered if Detroit had cut necessary maintenance when it proposed about 4 percent rate increases in the past two years.

“Literally our water is going down the drain,” he said. “It does cost us as consumers.”

Related coverage today at Deadline Detroit:

The Suburban Conundrum: How To Regionalize Bankrupt Detroit's Water System

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

Leave a Comment:

Photo Of The Day