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Biden OKs disaster declaration after Detroit-area flooding

July 15, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this Saturday, June 26, 2021, file photo, a sign warns of high water in a Detroit neighborhood. A regional water authority board has formed a committee to look at the agency's response to last month's heavy rainfall that led to basement and street flooding in Detroit and some surrounding suburbs. (Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP)
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FILE - In this Saturday, June 26, 2021, file photo, a sign warns of high water in a Detroit neighborhood. A regional water authority board has formed a committee to look at the agency's response to last month's heavy rainfall that led to basement and street flooding in Detroit and some surrounding suburbs. (Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP)
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FILE - In this Saturday, June 26, 2021, file photo, a sign warns of high water in a Detroit neighborhood. A regional water authority board has formed a committee to look at the agency's response to last month's heavy rainfall that led to basement and street flooding in Detroit and some surrounding suburbs. (Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP)

The White House said Thursday that President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for Michigan due to last month’s last month’s heavy rainfall that led to basement and street flooding in the Detroit area.

Word that Biden ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts came a day after a regional water authority board said it was forming a committee to look at its response to the crisis.

The committee will lead the Great Lakes Water Authority board’s independent investigation and hire engineering and legal firms to assist in the review, Michelle Zdrodowski, spokeswoman for the authority, said in an email.

The committee includes representatives appointed by Wayne and Macomb counties, and the city of Detroit.

A storm dumped more than 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) of rain June 25-26 on the area, leaving thousands of basements and dozens of streets flooded. Cars and SUVs stuck in high water were abandoned on flooded freeways and many streets were impassable.

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Two water pumping stations in Detroit experienced power-related problems but did not fail during the rainstorm, Great Lakes Water Authority Chief Executive Sue McCormick told reporters several days later.

McCormick said that due to an electrical service issue only three of six pumps at one station were able to be brought online, while a power outage at a second station slowed efforts to turn three of its pumps on as the rain poured.

“Not only did we receive a large volume of precipitation, but it also fell in very intense bursts,” she said. “A review of the gauge data indicated the rain event was far beyond our designed standard.”

Candice Miller, public works commissioner in neighboring Macomb County, earlier had called for an independent investigation.

The federal declaration also makes federal grants and low-cost loans available to residents and business owners in Detroit, other parts of Wayne County and Washtenaw County who were affected by the storm.

Federal Emergency Management Agency staffers were in Detroit and neighboring communities last week assessing damage from the flooding. After the storm, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Detroit and surrounding Wayne County.

On Tuesday, 20 residents of the suburb of Grosse Pointe Park filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court against the authority alleging that 8 feet (2.4 meters) of wastewater flooded their basements through sewer lines.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and the cities of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park also are named in the lawsuit.

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Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.