The curb of a home in Ferndale is packed with trash after it and many other homes were flooded in August 2014. The city’s government, along with Pleasant Ridge and eight other municipalities, are in the process of approving an $11.5 million settlement agreement for a class action lawsuit.

The curb of a home in Ferndale is packed with trash after it and many other homes were flooded in August 2014. The city’s government, along with Pleasant Ridge and eight other municipalities, are in the process of approving an $11.5 million settlement agreement for a class action lawsuit.

File photo by Brian Louwers


Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge approve settlement agreements for 2014, 2017 floods

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 25, 2021

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FERNDALE/PLEASANT RIDGE — Following in the footsteps of Berkley and Huntington Woods, the government bodies of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge have approved a settlement agreement for a class action lawsuit in regard to the 2014 and 2017 Oakland County floods.

The Ferndale City Council and Pleasant Ridge City Commission took up the settlement agreement at their Jan. 11 and Jan. 12 meetings, respectively. The cities are two of 10 in Oakland County that were sued by local homeowners in a class action lawsuit to recover damages caused by the floods.

The two sides in the case were able to reach a tentative global settlement agreement in the amount of $11.5 million. An additional $1.5 million will go toward future sewer system improvements. Berkley’s City Council previously approved its agreement Dec. 21, while Huntington Woods’ City Commission passed its agreement Jan. 5.

Ferndale City Manager Joe Gacioch said the city has received 1,064 homeowner claims and 293 insurance subrogation claims across the two events. He added that Ferndale’s portion of the $11.5 million settlement is $214,726.

The city also will spend $109,221 on sewer improvements as part of the settlement.

“They’re improvements that we already do, but any improvements that involve maintenance, or it could be stormwater improvements, televising sewers,” Gacioch said of future sewer improvements. “The purpose of the settlement would be for all the cities and the county to reinvest in their stormwater and sewer infrastructure. That’s really the point of it.”

Moving forward past the settlement, Gacioch said it’s important for everyone, not just the local governments but also those in the region and state, to grapple with climate change, which he pointed to as the reason for the floods.

“This was a 300-year flood and we had significant flooding events because of significant storm and rain events,” he said. “It happened in 2015, 2016, 2017, last summer (in 2020). So the frequency of rain events — heavy rain events — aren’t going to be reduced with climate change.”

At the same time, Gacioch said the region has permanent infrastructure underground that is a product of decisions that were made decades ago, referring to the combined sewer system.

“That means water and sewer flow through one system,” he said. “With frequent rain events, we’re gonna have to grapple with the impacts of climate change and our legacy infrastructure systems that weren’t designed to deal with frequent rain events like they are today. And that’s gonna be a challenge not just for the region, but nationally.”

Pleasant Ridge received 95 claims from homeowners and 35 insurance subrogation claims, totaling 130. The city only received claims for the 2014 flood event.

City Manager James Breuckman stated that the city’s payment toward the settlement is about $20,000, with an additional amount somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 going to sewer improvements.

Breuckman said that changes to the sewer system is not a Pleasant Ridge issue, but more of a regional issue because all of the sewer systems are interconnected

“Our sewers are in good shape, they’re functioning properly, we have a maintenance program. We inspect them regularly every 10 years and make any necessary repairs or preventative maintenance when we need to,” he said. “There’s no issue with the way our sewers are functioning. It’s really more of an issue of we had a 300-year storm and our sewers are simply not designed to accommodate that regionally.”

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