From the Headlines – September 13-17, 2021

Mystery mound: Still no clear explanation for the 8-foot tall mound that appeared on Dearborn Street in southwest Detroit Saturday night. “There was no explosion here, that is the main point we want to get out,” said Hakim Berry, chief operating officer for the city of Detroit. And if the words “no explosion” aren’t sufficiently reassuring, Berry added, “There was a slow growth of something that happened underneath.” Officials say they are unable to investigate the nature of the spontaneous mound until they can demolish Stash Detroit, a cannabis dispensary on West Fort and Dearborn streets that was lifted several feet into the air when the road buckled. Earlier in the week Michelle Zdrodowski, chief public affairs officer for the Great Lakes Water Authority, blamed the incident on a gas explosion that caused a water main break. However, DTE Energy said in a statement, “there is no evidence to indicate natural gas was the cause of the incident.” On Thursday afternoon, the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition sent out a press release calling on the city to “act out of caution and evacuate residents in the vicinity.” The group expressed concerns about how unstable ground could impact high-pressure gas lines and that a utility disconnection may create a backup at the GLWA Southwest Water Treatment Facility, leading to strong odors. (Freep)

Flood update: The Detroit Water and Sewer Department reported 34,624 water in basement investigations specifically for the June 25th and 26th rainfall event. As of Thursday, the Great Lakes Water Authority has received more than 17,000 claims for the event. No claims have yet been paid out. Prior to the flood, DWSD reports clearing 227 miles of sewer, Since the flood, they report cleaning an additional 206 miles of sewer and 200 basins. The agency applied for a public assistance declaration for flood damage from the State of Michigan, and the Detroit City Planning Commission has started a series of urban flooding discussions. The first conversation was held last week. DWSD is working to create a hotline for all questions around current claims, and an automated email for those seeking information. Council Member Racquel Castaneda Lopez suggested both options be translated into Spanish, Arabic, and Bengali at a minimum. (Detroit Documenters via Twitter)

Paying the price: “It’s to the point where it feels like you want to throw up sometimes, especially if I am at home,” Victoria Thomas said of the pollution from the expanded Stellantis facilities on Detroit’s east side. “It’s something that is just getting in your throat. You’re coughing uncontrollably.” She and other residents also complain that the $15,000 offered to them as part of a community benefits agreement to make home repairs for things like air filtration has been insufficient and that the city-approved contractors they were required to use did shoddy work. So far, 4,000 people have signed a petition calling on the automaker to do more for residents impacted by the plant. (Detroit News)

$500: Flat Rock Mayor Mark Hammond said residents will likely wait weeks to return to their homes after Ford Motor Company’s leak of gasoline into the city’s sewer system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began testing indoor air quality in the 1,200 homes affected by the spill. The city’s sewer system has also been flushed and is being monitored for gasoline fumes. Ford is sending checks for $500 to every household that was forced to evacuate, which may not go very far towards covering the expenses of residents who are now staying in hotels. (Detroit News, Freep)

Garbage gas: Arbor Hills Energy has reached a settlement with the Justice Department and the state of Michigan over sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from its gas to energy facility at a landfill in Salem Township. Also referred to as “renewable natural gas” by those given to euphemisms, gas sucked out of landfills produces planet-warming methane pollution just like gas from any other source. In the case of the Arbor Hills facility, the SO2 emissions stem from the burning of methane gas to power turbines for energy production. As part of the settlement, the company must reduce these emissions by either converting the gas into pipeline-grade gas or installing a sulfur treatment system on its energy plant. Or, just a thought, they could leave the garbage gas in the landfill. (Channel 4, Vox, Scientific American)

Climate costs: Climate scientists have filed written testimony with the Michigan Public Service Commission, saying that the proposed tunnel for Enbridge’s Line 5 oil and gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac would emit “excessive greenhouse gas emissions”. Peter Howard, the economics director at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, said the pipeline’s average climate costs would be $1 billion for each year from 2027 to 2070 in addition to “significant unmonetized climate effects and other unquantified pollution costs to human health and the environment.” (Detroit News)

Dam autopsy: An independent investigation into the failure of the Edenville Dam in May 2020, which resulted in the flooding of Midland and other areas along the Tittabawassee River, concluded that intense rains liquified the loose sand in the dam, leading to its collapse. “We had not, as a profession, up until this point recognized that (earthen dams) could perhaps fail in the way that this one failed,” said John France, leader of the investigative team and president of JWF Consulting. “So it’s going to lead to some changes in the way the engineering profession looks at it.” A failure to compact sand during construction and a lack of tile drains at the base of the dam to move water away from the inside of the embankment helped produce the collapse. Record high water levels also contributed to the failure, with investigators saying it would have been impossible otherwise. (Bridge Michigan)

Heat’s a killer: The death toll from Hurricane Ida in New Orleans stands at 14, with nine of these fatalities believed to be from the heat and widespread power outages that followed the storm. This includes the 73-year-old Iley Joseph, whose air conditioning and refrigerator were rendered useless along with his building’s elevator. New Orleans officials set up air-conditioned cooling centers and used buses for cooling, but residents like Joseph with limited mobility were unable to access this help. City officials are now considering policies to require apartments serving older or disabled residents to have generator power during emergencies and conduct welfare checks or have a building manager present.  “Heat is a hazard that we simply haven’t given sufficient attention to,” said David Hondula, a professor at Arizona State University who studies heat emergencies. “All cities are in the early stages of understanding what an effective heat response looks like.” (NY Times, WaPo)

This week’s photo was taken at the Creative Empowerment Garden and future site of the Manistique Community Treehouse on Detroit’s Eastside.


Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get the latest local enviro news in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top