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An inside look at Conner Creek pump station and why flooding continues in Detroit

Systems not designed to handle heavy rainfall

Why Detroit keeps flooding: Inside look at Conner Creek Pump Station
Why Detroit keeps flooding: Inside look at Conner Creek Pump Station

DETROIT – The Great Lakes Water Authority says the Conner Creek pump station is nearly 100 years old and needs upgrades.

Officials say it can handle a lot of water, but blame a perfect storm of problems for why it is overwhelmed as homes flood over and over again.

The GLWA gave Local 4 News a tour Monday to show what happens when heavy rain arrives.

They say flooding problems are about new more intense rainfall. But it’s more complicated. It’s the age of these stations, the power supply to them and a circle of blame about who is responsible.

Inside the GLWA’s two most important pumping stations in Detroit the Connor Creek and Freud pump stations.

The Connor Creek facility is one of the largest in the state capable of moving billions of gallons of water a day with eight massive storm pumps.

But the facility is almost a century old built in the 1930s. It’s also not deep enough for modern standards meaning water from sewer lines underground need to rise almost 80 feet before they can even turn the pumps on, a long enough wait for neighborhoods and homes to flood.

The Freud station down the street is much more modern. It was built in the 1950s. While this station is smaller it’s the first line of defense for GLWA’s systems in Detroit capable of starting up in just five minutes in the event of flooding.

“It’s not the volume as much as it is the intensity. It’s the intensity that’s creating the problem and the intensity is the change that we’re seeing in the climate,” said Suzanne Coffey, GLWA interim CEO.

Both stations had power issues during the worst storms this summer which they blame on DTE power outages.

There are generators on site but not enough to keep the stations running at full power. The authority’s CEO says they’re in weekly, “productive brainstorming” with DTE, the City of Detroit and MDOT to fix these problems.

“Trying to bring the technical people to the table, brainstorming about what we need to do. There’s just not a lot of easy answers. But there’s a lot of productivity happening. I can assure you of that,” said Coffey.

The authority does have hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for a total remodel here at Connor Creek which would mean burying those pumps a little deeper which means a faster turn on time but that process could take eight years time many people here just don’t have.

It seems like each time it rains this happens. GLWA stated people should be prepared for the next round of storms because there is nothing it can do.

The fact of the matter is the systems just weren’t designed to handle the kind of rain we’ve been getting which is certainly no comfort to those folks whose homes have continued and will keep flooding.

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About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.