Riverside Drive residents sound off on sewage floods

‘We’ve had seven of these 20-year storms in the past 10 years’

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published August 18, 2022


MOUNT CLEMENS — A collection of Riverside Drive residents alerted the Mount Clemens City Commission to sewage floods occurring in homes on the street at the commission’s Aug. 15 meeting.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of flooding over the past couple of years, and it’s not just water in the basements,” Riverside resident John Augugliaro said. “It’s literally feces and leaves and frogs, and we get told, ‘Well, it’s a 20-year storm.’ We get told, ‘We found a 2-by-4 in the sewer drain,’ but one 2-by-4 doesn’t do this, and we’ve had seven of these 20-year storms in the past 10 years.”

Five residents spoke on the matter during the opening public comment period, with another speaker extending support. Many of the Riverside Drive residents have been cleaning up the mess caused by the floods with great concern for the health effects of handling raw sewage and other contaminated materials.

“What I cleaned up two weeks ago when my renter called me and came and cleaned from 11 until 5, I had already done that multiple times, but let alone to have her (the renter) to go through this,” said Melinda Paul, a former Riverside Drive resident who currently rents out a house on the street. “If it was storm water — totally different. This is unhealthy water. She has children. If I left that water in when your person came in to tell me it wasn’t safe for my renter to live there, I’m pretty sure that would be an issue.”

Aside from having to clean up the potentially hazardous floods, many residents have spent money on repairs and flood mitigation systems for their homes. Residents asked the city to establish a committee to address the flooding.

“We’d like to get the city involved, along with some of the residents, and then start to talk to subject-matter experts,” Bill Bucholtz said. “Let’s identify and understand why is this condition happening.”

The speakers left an impact on commissioners, with Mayor Laura Kropp breaking standard procedure and addressing the comments right after the first session by asking the speakers to leave their contact information for further discussion. Commissioners also spoke on the matter during their commissioner comments period.


Utility bill increases
The news of the flooding problem played into a debate on water utilities increases, which see water and sewer rates going up by 5% to $3.59 and $5.57, respectively. Other utilities were increased, including the wholesale water rates ($27.84 for Clinton Township and $28.44 for Harrison Township), a sewer cleaning fee ($441) and the septic hauler rate (8.7 cents per gallon). The commission approved the increases 7-1; Laura Fournier provided the lone “no’’ vote.

“Our infrastructure is in trouble here, and we have all known it’s coming,” Fournier said. “And so if this is a Band-Aid, then I just don’t think the residents should have to pay an increase.”

Increase supporters see the increase as a way to cover needed upgrades to the city’s water system and operating expenses.

“We have these facilities, and we have to stop kicking the can down the road, and we have to fix them, and you have to have money to do that,” Kropp said. “And I know that it shouldn’t fall on the backs of residents with tax paying, but we also have to fix this.”

Some of the upgrades and purchases the city has outlined for the sewer system include buying a sewer cleaning truck, upgrading the Groesbeck and North Rose pump stations, purchasing closed circuit TV cameras for the system, and making repairs to various sewers.


Other business
The commission unanimously approved an audit of the city’s 2020-2021 financial records for $72, 485 by Plante Moran. The report is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The commission voted unanimously to become a partner in the Michigan Homeowner Assistance Fund program, which aids homeowners by helping with delinquent mortgage or housing payments, property taxes, condo association fees or utility payments to help them avoid foreclosure, displacement or utility shut-off.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation congratulated Mount Clemens on being the sixth Redevelopment Ready Community to reach the Essentials designation under the new RRC 2.0 Framework.

“As we work together toward economic recovery following this crisis, your RRC Essentials status will be more valuable than ever as it signals to developers that the city is open for business with a streamlined and organized development review process in place,” Elizabeth King, MEDC senior planner, said.