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Berkley residents impacted by historic floods could soon get payout

Berkley City Council authorizes proposed flood settlement agreement
2014 Berkley flooding
Posted at 4:50 AM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 12:09:36-05

BERKLEY, Mich. (WXYZ) — People affected by historic floods in Berkley could soon get a payout, which would also save the city from dishing out millions.

The Berkley City Council has authorized the proposed negotiated settlement of the longstanding class-action lawsuits pending against the City of Berkley, Oakland County, and nine other southeast Oakland County municipalities covering thousands of claims made by homeowners for basement flooding and property damage stemming from historic rain and flood events that occurred in August 2014 and August 2017.

This agreement would save the city of Berkley from facing the more than $22 million in damages demanded after the flood events.

The lawsuits claim defective sewage systems in those communities, including in Berkley, led to the flooding.

“Some of those who experienced flooding in 2014 event will see some compensation for that, and then the municipalities as well will come out with a settlement that they feel is manageable for their budget and can let each of us maintan our maintenace and operation plan as well," said Berkley City Manager Matthew Baumgarten.

It’s a settlement agreement the city of Berkley greenlighted Monday night. The next step will be to see which other cities agree to it.

Of the $11.5 million settlement reached, Berkley would need to pay out just more than $385,000 and commit to spending nearly $200,000 on future improvements to the city’s sewer system. Baumgarten says this work is already underway.

This all stems from massive rainfall back in 2014 – four to six inches falling in a four-hour period – flooding impacting 80 percent of Berkley households, prompting the city to declare a state of emergency. Then FEMA was called in to help.

Fast forward to 2017, another round of rain in a short period of time overloaded Berkley’s combined sewer system.
Rght now, Baumgarten says the city is already inspecting the system, something they do routinely once every three years.

“That may sound like a long time, but that is crews working each and every day to literally pull out junk, sludge, anything you can imagine that would cause our system to fill too quickly," he said.

Baumgarten says preventative measures are also being taken, like working to cure old pipes in place using plastic liners.

“The city has about 30 percent of its pipes already done. And that comes from decades of work. So we’re very confident that what we have done so far is fully in line with best practices," he said.

It’s still unclear exactly how much each resident involved could receive. There are at least two people who sued the city directly. An insurance company also sued.

The cases against the City of Berkley are:

  • Deanna Doot et al. v City of Berkley et al. (Doot)
  • Hanover Insurance Company v City of Berkley, et al. (Hanover)
  • Sheila Jacob v City of Berkley (Jacob)

If you’re impacted by this settlement agreement, you should receive a letter in the mail. All of this is now in the hands of attorneys. If and when other municipalities agree, the settlement would then go to the circuit court for preliminary approval.