From the Headlines – June 28-July 2, 2021

Flood recovery: WDET and Detour both have useful guides on where to find help after this past weekend’s historic flooding. WDET gives a good rundown on how to file a claim with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and what you need to clean up your basement after flooding. Detour provides a list of contacts for government agencies and nonprofits that can help after a flood. Residents can text 73224 to access Outlier Media’s flooding information service, as well as the state’s 2-1-1 hotline, which serves as a clearinghouse for different resources that can help people who are experiencing flooding or other emergencies. (WDET, Detour)  

Way more money needed: A potential $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill working its way through Congress may do little to help prevent the kind of floods that hit southeast Michigan last week. The bill includes $55 billion for water infrastructure improvement, but the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments estimates that $1 billion is needed for stormwater infrastructure every year until 2045 in this region alone. Nationally, it’s estimated that $188 billion is needed for water infrastructure over the next 20 years. “That’s not even taking the disasters and increased precipitation into account,” said Laura Rubin from the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Consortium. (Bridge Michigan)

Who is accountable? U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell — whose district includes areas hit hard by flooding like Dearborn — is requesting an investigation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the scope of the problem and identify confounding factors like blocked sewer drains and power outages that disabled pumping stations. “People living in my community have had it,” she said. “They’re fed up.” And Macomb County Public Works officer Candice Miller is calling for an independent investigation into the failure of the Conner Creek Pump Station. “All the public wants is competency in government,” Miller said, noting Macomb County is a member of the regional Great Lakes Water Authority that oversees Conner Creek. “That’s a simple ask — competency in government.” Duggan rejected the “framing” of Miller’s criticisms, noting that GLWA is a regional authority. “Through most of my adult life, the elected officials in Oakland in Macomb County said if we could just have control of the water system we could solve these problems. The Great Lakes Water Authority and Conner Creek Pump Station is a regional authority. It’s got six board members — four from the suburbs. And so, I agree that it should be investigated. But that means Macomb needs to investigate themselves too.” (Bridge, Detroit News, Press conference)

Great time for a water rate hike? Catastrophic flooding and reports of brown water in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Woods won’t keep metro Detroiters from paying more for their water this month. The scale of the rate hikes will vary across the region. In Detroit, water rates will go up by 2 percent, with disposal rates and sewerage service charges remaining unchanged. However, drainage charges in the city will go up by 8 percent. DWSD managers say these increases are needed to pay for extensive efforts to remove lead service lines and improve sewers. Yet, Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp said, “You’ve got to think about the residents you’re taking that money from…(A price hike) is not what our community needs.”  St. Clair County will see the highest water rate increase at 49.5 percent. (Detroit News)

Baby steps: Some assistance on water infrastructure could be coming from an unexpected source. Republican State Sen.Jon Bumstead introduced legislation in the Michigan Legislature that would provide loans and grants to replace lead pipes and install filtered water stations in schools. The bill also includes $700 million to upgrade drinking water and wastewater facilities and $680 million to repair dams. (Michigan Radio)  

Prison water: Incarcerated people at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan are also experiencing water problems. The water that they use to drink, cook with and bathe has been discolored for several months, possibly as a result of the prison switching from well water to a municipal source. Prison officials insist that the water is safe. However, the water is only tested when it leaves Coldwater’s treatment plant, not at the prison itself. And official explanations for the discolored water have varied. They have blamed it on repairs at the prison itself, the flushing of the city’s water hydrants, and the cleaning of the city’s aerators. Guards bring in their own water, but inmates aren’t allowed to buy bottled water at the prison commissary. Jason Harden, a 35-year-old prisoner from Wayne County, said, “I’m scared to death, so I just go without water.” (Deadline Detroit)

Summer from hell: While Detroit was dealing with its own climate-related crisis, much of the northwestern U.S. and British Columbia suffered under a “heat dome” or mass of high-pressure air that trapped heat in the region for days. Temperatures hit 112 in Portland, Oregon, and 121 F in Lytton, BC. The entire town of Lytton has since had to evacuate on account of a wildfire. Health officials in Oregon have blamed the heat for 62 deaths, while 486 “sudden and unexpected” deaths occurred in British Columbia, 195 percent higher than normal. This is a climate crisis. (NY Times, CBC, Guardian)
Our photo this week was taken by Planet Detroit reader Kit Parks


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