Macomb County announced in June 202 that it had received a grant of $300,000 to restore and enhance natural habitat along the Sterling Relief and Red Run drains in Sterling Heights.

Macomb County announced in June 202 that it had received a grant of $300,000 to restore and enhance natural habitat along the Sterling Relief and Red Run drains in Sterling Heights.

Photo provided by the Macomb County Public Works Office

Study shows high number of homes at risk of flooding in Sterling Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 11, 2021


STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights is among 10 cities in Michigan with the highest number of properties at risk of flooding, according to the 2020 First National Flood Risk Assessment.

The study estimates that, in Michigan, 315,600 properties are at substantial risk of flooding. This is considerably higher than the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s own listing of 124,100 such properties, due to differences in how each group evaluates the issue. The FNFRA takes into account areas that FEMA hasn’t mapped yet and also factors in precipitation rates as a separate risk, as well as current climate data.

The city in Michigan with the highest percentage of at-risk properties is Detroit, at 10% (39,744), followed by Warren at 21% (11,916), Grand Rapids at 15% (9,448), and Sterling Heights in fourth at 12% (5,485). The other cities include Lansing, also at 12% (5,164); Flint, at 9% (5,161); Dearborn, at 15% (5,051); Dearborn Heights, at 19% (5,672); St. Clair Shores, at 15% (4,115); and Grosse Pointe Woods, at 60% (4,102).

In Sterling Heights, some flood mitigation is provided by the Sterling Relief Drain, which also serves to protect the environment by filtering out harmful contaminants.

“In this unique project, we ‘day-lighted’ portions of what had previously been a metal-enclosed drain, which allows Mother Nature to naturally act as a sponge for storm water, soaking up harmful nutrients and toxins before they have a chance to reach the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair,” Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said in an email. “Not only do the plantings help prevent erosion, they reduce sediment and absorb phosphorus and nitrogen. We’re especially proud of this award-winning green infrastructure project.”

Foundation Systems of Michigan, or FSM, says at-risk properties should take additional steps. FSM is a company that provides structural, basement and crawl space repair services for homeowners across Central and Southeast Michigan. First, it suggests that people purchase separate flood insurance if their property is at risk, because homeowner’s insurance only covers damage from internal sources of water such as overflowing toilets and leaking or burst pipes, and doesn’t cover damage from rains, storms or flooding.

Since 2000, there have been 238,900 flood damage claims through FEMA in Michigan, with the highest number of claims in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, Genesee and Midland counties. To put the cost in perspective, FEMA estimates that just 1 inch of water in a 5,000-square-foot multistory home can cost $47,110 to repair, along with $6,344 in damage to personal property.

FSM says to safely store valuables in waterproof containers on an upper floor, away from expected floodwaters, when possible, and to direct water away from your home by making sure gutters and downspouts are clear and that your landscape grading slopes away from the foundation, with downspout extensions to help move water even farther away.

Flood-resistant drywall and insulation can further help reduce the damage from flooding and allows for easier cleanup. Installing floor tile instead of carpeting is also advised. So is the installation of an internal drainage system in the basement or crawl space, which can collect leaks and remove water with a sump pump.

Some home security systems offer flood sensors that can detect rising water and alert the owner to take immediate action. Flood vents can be installed in the basement or crawl space to reduce the pressure on foundation walls, which can prevent greater structural damage.

Installing back-flow valves can prevent sewage drain lines from backing up due to floodwaters. And when possible, one should elevate utilities, moving electrical equipment and any extension cords off the basement floor. Rerouting electrical wiring and placing outlets well above possible flood levels can be a smart longer-term project.

“Any home that is over the age of 30 years is at risk of water entering the basement or crawlspace,” said Dale King, the sales manager at FSM, in an email. “Foundations are built with a tar coating on the exterior walls and a footing drain that sits at the base of the home, below 7-8 feet of soil. Homes on crawlspaces may not even have had any drainage system installed when they were built. Over time, these tar coatings will wear down from the clay expansion and contraction. It acts like sandpaper on the foundation and removes the sealant. Drainage tile can become obstructed with soil from the water draining through the backfill of the home and making its way into the drain tile. It carries that sediment with it and creates blockages in the drainage system. 

“It is a slow process that takes years to happen,” he said. “But with how homes are designed, it will need to be addressed at some point.”