Based on Independent Investigation’s Outcome and Michigan Law, GLWA Denies Claims Related to Summer 2021 Flooding

  • Independent Investigation concluded that heavy and historic rainfall caused basement and surface flooding on June 25/26, not a defect in the regional collection system.
  • Michigan’s Governmental Liability for Negligence Act states a public entity can only be liable for a sewage disposal system event if a defect in the system was 50% or more of the cause of the event and property or physical damage.
  • Because the heavy and historic rainfall was the primary cause of basement and surface flooding, GLWA is denying those flooding claims it has received.

DETROIT – The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) announced today that it is denying all claims submitted to the Authority related to the historic rain events that took place in the summer of 2021. Official notification is being mailed to claimants this week.

GLWA made this decision based on two factors.

First are the findings of the independent investigation conducted on last Summer’s historic rain events, which determined that 1) widespread basement flooding was inevitable due to the unprecedented amount and intensity of the rainfall that occurred on June 25-26, 2021;  and 2) even if every piece of piping and equipment in the regional system worked in an ideal manner on June 25-26, basement backups and surface flooding would still have occurred in GLWA’s system, or any other collection system designed to today’s standard. All reports and presentations on last summer’s rain events, including the independent investigation’s final report, can be found here.

The second is that under Michigan’s Governmental Liability for Negligence Act, a public entity such as GLWA can only be liable for a sewage disposal system event (a basement backup) if a defect in its sewage disposal system was the substantial proximate cause (50 percent or more of the cause) of the event and property damage or physical injury.

“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. Even before the release of the final report from the Independent Investigators, GLWA began working to implement key infrastructure and process improvements to help address the stresses put on an infrastructure system not built for this level of rain. We remain committed to doing everything within our power and to working closely with our infrastructure partners in southeast Michigan, to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. ”

The short-term actions that GLWA has taken to improve climate resiliency in the regional system over the last year can be found here. GLWA has also begun working with its legislators to identify funding at the federal level for a Flood Risk Mitigation Study for southeast Michigan. If funded, the study will be conducted in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and will evaluate the implementation of concepts such as wastewater storage at grade or deep tunnel levels, using pumping stations for discharge, constructing large diameter relief sewers, and strategic sewer separation to address the long-term impacts of climate change.

While GLWA works on building system resiliency, the Authority cannot address these challenges alone. Steps property owners can take to protect their assets in the future include disconnecting downspouts, checking basement walls and foundation for leaks, disposing of grease properly (not in the drains), and snaking drains and the sewer lateral service line every two years.


About the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA)

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) is the provider-of-choice for drinking water services to nearly 40 percent, and efficient and effective wastewater services to nearly 30 percent, of Michigan’s population. With the Great Lakes as source water, GLWA is uniquely positioned to provide those it serves with water of unquestionable quality. GLWA also has the capacity to extend its services beyond its 88 member partner communities. As part of its commitment to water affordability, the Authority offers a Water Residential Assistance Program to assist low-income households in participating member communities throughout the system. GLWA’s board includes one representative each from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, two representatives from the city of Detroit, and one appointed by the Michigan governor to represent member partner communities outside of the tri-county area.