Mack Avenue manhole incident under investigation

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 12, 2017

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The area of Bournemouth Road and southbound Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe Woods was closed off for a few hours Sept. 5 after a manhole cover blew several feet into the air.

DTE Energy spokesperson Amanda Knaebel said an electrical cable failure underneath the ground caused the incident to occur. The malfunction caused pressure to build up underneath the surface, which blew off the manhole cover. No injuries were reported.

“Everybody was safe,” Knaebel said.

Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Director John Kosanke said a call came into the department about the incident at 1:53 p.m. Sept. 5. The department dispatched several officers and a city fire truck to the scene. Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety officers closed off the area for two to three hours.

“People (in the area) heard a loud noise. There’s always that fear when somebody hears something like that,” Kosanke said. “It was reported the manhole cover flew up into the air about 15 to 20 feet, according to witnesses. We saw the manhole cover had been destroyed. We didn’t see any signs of an explosion.”

Kosanke said DTE Energy was called to the site.

“When DTE showed up, we turned the scene over to DTE,” the public safety director said. “They were still looking at what the possible cause was.”

DTE Energy crews continued working in the city last week to fix the problem and determine what caused the cable failure.

Kosanke said employees from the AAA building were evacuated after the incident because they thought they smelled gas. Grosse Pointe Woods officers inspected the AAA building and “didn’t find anything.”

Because of the underground cable failure, about 600 customers in the immediate area temporarily lost power. DTE Energy was able to utilize a backup system to restore power.

“We had them restored later that day,” Knaebel said. “It was a pretty quick turnaround. It did cause a loud noise which is why people thought they heard an explosion. It’s pretty loud, and people can find that alarming.

The city has experienced a number of gas leaks this past year because of DTE Energy’s Gas Renewal Program. However, the underground cable failure was not related to the renewal project.

“It was an isolated issue,” Knaebel said.

The utility company is complying with an order from the Michigan Public Service Commission to conduct the Gas Renewal Program. DTE crews are replacing the city’s aging natural gas infrastructure. The new meters are digital and are known as “smart meters” or “advanced meters.” The project is being done at no cost to the residents.