Basement flooded? File a claim, city says

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 26, 2014

ST. CLAIR SHORES — With trash lining the streets more than a week after the flood, city officials say they are looking for those who experienced damages from basement flooding to make their claims known.

“We do need you to make the claims. That way, we’ve got the record,” said Interim City Manager Mike Smith. “If funding does become available, we do know who’s out there.”

Smith said the mayor, county executive and governor all declared states of emergency after the Aug. 11 flooding with a goal of opening up state funds and perhaps federal disaster money.

That’s why the city wants residents who experienced basement flooding to fill out a claim form so their damages can be taken into account in any request for state or federal aid. The claim form is available at City Hall or online at, but claims must be filed within 45 days of the occurrence.

“This is one of the very few times we’re going to be soliciting complaints,” Smith said.

Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock explained during the Aug. 18 City Council meeting that the city doesn’t have any pumps or gates that can be turned off to stop the flow of water and cause basements to back up. Each of the rain events Aug. 4 and 11 dumped well over the monthly average of water on the city in just a few hours, he said, overwhelming the system.

While storm sewers and sanitary sewers are separated throughout 95 percent of the city, mid-century homes (which make up a majority of the city’s housing stock) have footing drain tiles surrounding them which drain by gravity into the home’s sanitary sewer. The rainwater collected by those drain tiles flows to the house’s main drain and out to the street via sanitary sewer, because that is the only drain pipe most of the homes have.

Because of that, excess rain water gets into the sanitary sewer system and overwhelms it, which led to the basement flooding seen throughout much of St. Clair Shores and in other older communities in metro Detroit.

Homeowners can take a few steps to protect themselves from flooding. Babcock said gutters cannot legally be connected to footing drains anymore, and gutters should have an extension on the downspout to direct the flow of water at least five feet from the house. In addition, he recommends regular maintenance of the sewer leads running from the house because a clean pipe has more capacity to run water away from the home.

Babcock said the city will be investigating its storm sewer system soon with help from a $2 million grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“During this storm, there was just too much rain. The system was just overwhelmed,” he said. Employees of the DPW “did everything they could with what they were dealt with. It was not made worse by any form of neglect.”

The reason certain portions of the city continue to flood, Babcock explained, is due to gravity.

“When sewers fill, that water needs to go somewhere,” he said. “It’s normally to the streets with the lowest elevation.”

Mayor Kip Walby said that only a certain amount of sanitary sewage can flow to Detroit for treatment at a time, leading to the dumping of treated water into the lake when that amount is exceeded.

At the Chapaton Retention Basin, Babcock said Macomb County monitors the flow of sewage from St. Clair Shores, Eastpointe and Roseville. Once that limit is reached, “they start pumping it into their retention basin … shocking it with chlorine” and putting it into Lake St. Clair, he said.

Library update
Smith reported Aug. 18 that the city is still working on repairs at the St. Clair Shores Public Library, which experienced flooding in July. He said carpeting will need to be replaced throughout the building, both on the ground floor and in the basement. Wall repairs will also need to be made, and some furniture will need to be repaired or replaced because of the water damage.

Tentatively, Smith said, the library will need to be closed for about three weeks for all the repairs to take place. He said they are looking at scheduling those repairs at the end of December.