Investigation finds cause of massive September ground swell in Southwest Detroit

‘Soil failure’ root cause of street buckling

Officials rule out explosion at southwest Detroit damage site

DETROIT – It’s been three months since the ground at an intersection in Southwest Detroit buckled and swelled. Now we have a better idea of what happened.

The City of Detroit says it has completed an investigation into what happened on Sept. 12, in the area of Dearborn and Fort streets in Southwest Detroit. The street broke and buckled upward -- the ground was so unstable under the street and under a nearby dispensary that the building had to be taken down.

Hakim Berry, City of Detroit COO, released this update on the investigation on Monday:

The investigation into the cause of the SW Detroit ground swell is now complete. Our analysis determined that the ground shift was caused by a soil failure, due to the combination of the weight of materials stored in the area and the ground not being strong enough to hold it.

While the company storing the material was operating completely legally, this incident and others in Southwest Detroit are causing us to review our ordinances as they relate to top material storage, particularly in the southwest area of the city.

The final report is nearing completion, but is currently undergoing legal review. Once we’re able to release the final report, we will.

Hakim Berry, City of Detroit COO

At first, officials thought some sort of explosion caused the street to buckle, but nothing was found, despite residents complaining of natural gas odors for weeks prior to the incident.

Soil failure is when the shear stresses in the soil exceed the shear strength of the soil.

Previous coverage from September: Crews begin digging where road buckled in Southwest Detroit

After months of waiting, we finally know what caused the road to buckle in Southwest Detroit.
Crews demolish Stash Detroit dispensary in Southwest Detroit

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.