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Suburban public works chief wants independent flood probe

July 1, 2021 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — A suburban Detroit official called Thursday for an independent investigation of a pump station blamed for flooding that ruined thousands of basements in the region.

The Macomb County public works commissioner, Candice Miller, said everyone knew intense rain was coming last Friday, but “it appears there was a management failure at the Conner Creek pump station.”

Miller acknowledged that no system is designed to handle more than 6 inches of rain in a short period.

“They needed to have it properly manned,” said Miller, a former Republican member of Congress. “They needed to have a backup plan, like a generator if the electricity went out.”

Conner Creek is run by the Great Lakes Water Authority, known as GLWA, a regional water and wastewater agency.

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The agency said the Conner Creek station was down for less than an hour. Chief executive Sue McCormick plans to speak to reporters Friday.

Miller’s staff decided to release millions of gallons of treated water and waste to Lake St. Clair rather than risk sewage backups in Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores that hit basements in the Grosse Pointe communities, Detroit, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.

“The public needs to have confidence that the investigation will be conducted with the utmost transparency,” Miller said. “Those who are dealing now with the cleanup of flooded basements, and all ratepayers, deserve that.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Duggan said 71 crews, made up of city staff and private contractors, will be deployed to Detroit neighborhoods to remove possessions and trash piled along curbs.

“Is that going to be two weeks or is that going to be four weeks? I can’t tell you right now,” Duggan said. “But we’re just going to leave them there and have them keep going.”

The mayor agreed that the pump station problems need to be investigated, but he also noted that Macomb County has a representative on GLWA’s six-member governing board. Miller’s chief deputy, Brian Baker, currently serves in that role.

“The Macomb reps have supported the GLWA management team. They’ve supported all of the operating and capital plans. ... That means Macomb needs to investigate themselves, too,” Duggan said.