Controversy over catch basins as residents say flooding problems run deep

Posted at 6:50 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 19:48:31-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — There are more than 90,000 catch basins in the city of Detroit. Some people call them storm drains and they can be the source of flooding on streets, sidewalks and yards.

City crews use vactor trucks to vacuum out all of the gunk that settles in catch basins over time, and that gunk can include everything from mud and leaves to trash and other debris.

Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, reinstated a catch basin cleaning program several years ago for crews to clean out about 10,000 clogged catch basins a year — just over 11% of the city's catch basins.

And clogged catch basins are what is causing ongoing flooding issues on some streets like Lawton Street near Puritan Avenue on the city's west side and Sheridan Street near Charlevoix Street on the east side.

But people living on both streets said they regularly clear leaves and debris from the tops of the grates so that water will go down into the city's combined sewer lines and the catch basins still flood, leaving them to believe the problem goes deeper.

"They need to tear up the street and do something with it because it keeps coming back over and over again," said Francine Stigler, who lives on Lawton Street.

Donald Tundra has lived on Sheridan Street for about five years.

"Something has got to be collapsed. The drain has got to be collapsed because every time it rains, it floods," he said Friday.

City officials said crews vacuumed out the catch basins on both streets just last year.

Wayne County is responsible for approximately 3,500 catch basins on county roads in Detroit.

A county spokesperson said at times, there is an accumulation of debris, trash and leaves, so county road maintenance crews monitor, inspect and clean the catch basins periodically.

The Michigan Department of Transportation maintains 1,616 catch basins on state roads in Detroit.

The city of Detroit uses educational videos to encourage residents to clean in the front of their properties, especially in the spring and fall, by picking up leaves and debris and not pushing it into the street.