Check valve installation could help prevent sewage floods in your basement

Posted at 5:34 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2022-03-17 20:13:23-04

DETROIT (WXYZ)  — Detroit leaders say FEMA had crews in the city on Monday as it worked to set up an office to serve flood victims.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says in Detroit alone approximately 20,000 claims have been filed for damage from floods last month, and then we saw floods again Friday.

There have also been floods in other communities from the Grosse Pointes to Dearborn and Garden City, to name a few.

“We need to take a serious look at what is going on at the Great Lakes Water Authority,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

“We want an independent investigation done and it is underway,” said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Brown says the board is working to hire an independent firm to determine what went wrong and how to prevent it.

“I will tell you we are so far beyond volume and frequency in these storms that local systems, regional systems, lots of systems were challenged in this. That doesn’t make us feel good,” said Sue McCormick, Chief Executive Officer of the Great Lakes Water Authority.

McCormick says while we got more than twice the amount of rain the system is built to withstand last month, it is possible the authority made mistakes exacerbating flooding.

“I think there is potential for liability for the Great Lakes Water Authority, but that will be determined in the after-event analysis,” McCormick said.

She says that independent investigation will work to determine whether blame falls on power companies due to outages, Mother Nature, or the authority because, for example, some pumps were out of service before the storm. Accountability will take a while to sort out.

Gary Brown says the long-term solution is clear. The region needs to separate its storm and sewer drains so that storms don’t send sewage into homes.

“The long-term solution is separating the stormwaters from the sewers. And that is a very expensive task. Some people estimate it would cost $17 billion in the state of Michigan, $8 billion alone in the city of Detroit,” said Brown.

In the short term, you are being called on to protect your homes with sump pumps and valves.

“You should be considering putting a check valve on your sewer line,” said Brown.

“It basically has a door here that will let water out, but then shuts so if there is flooding from the city it doesn’t come into your system,” said Michael Kish, a master plumber with Motor City Plumbing & Drain, as he showed WXYZ a check valve.

Kish says his team is installing a lot of those for folks. The valves have been required for a while under code for homes with basements, but older homes do not have them.

Mayor Duggan says he is looking into a program to help people with older homes get them as a short-term fix.