Huntington Woods officials visit drainage facility to study 2014 flood

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published December 30, 2015

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — Like most cities near Woodward Avenue and Interstate 696, on Aug. 11, 2014, Huntington Woods was hit hard by more than 5 inches of rain in a 90-minute period.

The storm, which has been called anything from a 100-year to a 500-year event, caused basements of residential and municipal buildings to flood, as well as the streets, as drains backed up from the sheer amount of rainfall that came in a short period of time.

Since then, Huntington Woods city officials have begun to try to position the city’s sewer and drainage system to help combat a similar storm. The first step was to take video of all 35 miles of sewer pipes in the city and clean them.

On Dec. 14, the City Commission visited the George W. Kuhn Drainage District facility in Madison Heights to get a better understanding of how the system works and the steps that the city should take to protect residents.

“The city received an unprecedented amount of rain in a short period of time,” Mayor Bob Paul said. “It is important to understand from the county’s perspective what exactly happened at this facility and what the capacity issues are.”

Paul was joined by Commissioners Allison Iversen, Jeff Jenks, Jules Olsman and Joe Rozell during the visit. They toured around the facility with Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash.

The George W. Kuhn Drainage District formerly was known as the Twelve Towns Drainage District and serves all or part of 14 communities in Oakland County. During dry weather, all flow is routed to the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant, but during events such as the August 2014 flood, excessive flow is diverted to the George W. Kuhn Retention Treatment Basin.

Rozell said the goal of the visit was to get an understanding of how the facility and basin work to process sewage flow and discuss ways that Huntington Woods could address the issues the city had in August 2014.

After the visit, Rozell said it was obvious that the work must be done on a regional level, and not just every city for themselves.

“We wanted to find out what happened Aug. 11 and what we are going to do as a region to try and get ahead of this,” he said. “If all 14 communities don’t agree to do everything that needs to be done, it is not going to work. If Huntington Woods is behind one or two communities before the sewage gets to the Kuhn drain, if those communities aren’t willing to step up, we may still face ramifications if there is a flood.”

Rozell said there have been discussions between Nash and officials from the 14 participating communities on setting up a work group that would meet a few times a year to address ways to prevent flooding during big storms, as well as how to improve the facility.

The group is still in the planning stages, Rozell said, as each city is working on setting up a meeting schedule and who the representatives would be from the cities.

The recording and cleaning of the Huntington Woods sewer lines, however, is the beginning for Huntington Woods on a local level.

“Our current sewer maintenance program is just the first step in identifying potential issues with our aging infrastructure,” Olsman said. “Once we receive a report back from the company we hired to clean and televise the system, we will be better equipped to decide how to move forward.”

The sewer maintenance program began in early 2015 and has provided the city with some important information, Rozell said, such as that the sewer system in general is in good condition, but the city would benefit from finding a way to slow the flow of stormwater, such as in pocket parks that could help hold some of the rainfall while the system catches up.

Still, after the visit to the Kuhn facility, Rozell said they have a better understanding of what the current situation is for the district.

“I think what we learned is we are not totally sure on what the capacity of the system is and how many thousands of cubic feet it can handle,” he said. “We are covered for a 100-year storm, but maybe not for a 200- or 300-year storm. So what can we do to remediate those larger storms that are happening more frequently?”

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