Southwest Detroit gas pipe shut off after unexplained ground shift continues to pose problems

Cause of road buckling on Fort, Dearborn streets still unknown

Southwest Detroit damage site on Sept. 13, 2021

DETROIT – An investigation into the cause of an unexplained ground shift in Southwest Detroit is still underway, as officials say it continues to cause problems in the area nearly one week later.

Detroit officials said Thursday that the unexplained ground shift that occurred last weekend has “further impacted DTE Energy’s natural gas infrastructure.” On Saturday last week, a mysterious underground incident caused the road to buckle on Fort Street near Dearborn Street, severely damaging one local business, and impacting another nearby building.

On Tuesday, Stash Detroit Marijuana Dispensary was demolished after it was essentially uprooted by the underground incident, which was reportedly not an underground explosion, as previously assumed. DTE officials said Sunday that natural gas was not to blame for the incident, and that there was no evidence of a natural gas explosion.

Still, an odor that has been reported in the area following the incident is also under investigation.

Video: Crews demolish Stash Detroit dispensary in Southwest Detroit

Officials said Thursday that another structure in the area is under assessment after the ground shift impacted a portion of the building last weekend. It is currently unknown if a partial or full demolition of this building will be necessary.

Out of an “abundance of caution,” DTE Energy has decided to shut down a high pressure natural gas pipe along Dearborn Street to “avert a potential public safety issue” and to allow the investigation to continue safely, city officials said. The ground shift is reportedly causing more and more problems for the utility company.

Closure of the 24-inch gas pipe will apparently only impact six industrial clients in the area. DTE is installing a temporary bypass to continue servicing those clients while the pipe is closed, and that is expected to be up and running within a week.

“We’re still investigating the root cause of this ground upheaval, which continues to apply pressure to DTE’s utility equipment,” said city of Detroit CEO Hakim Berry. “We thank DTE for its detailed monitoring of the natural gas system, which alerted engineers to a potential issue – and for putting the safety of our community first by taking the proactive step of temporarily shutting down the main and installing a bypass line to service their customers.”

Officials say the bypass installation will impact wastewater solids processing at the Great Lakes Water Authority’s facility on Jefferson Avenue, which is expected to lead to a stronger odor in the area, as the authority “will not be able to maintain its typical high standard for odor control at the facility.” The water quality, however, will reportedly not be affected by the process, and will not create any public health issues, the city says.

As the investigation into the ground shift continues, officials say West Fort and Dearborn streets remain closed indefinitely. The nearby Miller, Riverside, Stone and Woodmere streets are also affected at this time.

DTE Energy is urging residents who smell or suspect a gas leak to leave the area, call 911 and the company at 800-947-5000 or your natural gas provider to report the situation.

More: Cause of ‘strong odor’ reported in Southwest Detroit under investigation

The City of Detroit, Great Lakes Water Authority and DTE Energy are investigating an incident that happened in southwest Detroit near Fort and Dearborn streets late Saturday night.

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Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.