GLWA denies all claims related to surface, basement flooding in Metro Detroit in June 2021

GLWA cites investigation, state law for denial

The Great Lakes Water Authority said it is not liable for basement and surface flooding in the summer of last year and is denying all claims it has received.

DETROIT – The Great Lakes Water Authority said it is not liable for basement and surface flooding in the summer of last year and is denying all claims it has received.

Notifications will be mailed to claimants this week regarding the denial. GLWA said due to the amount and intensity of the rainfall that happened on June 25 and 26 of 2021 that widespread basement flooding was inevitable.

It said that even if everything in the system worked as it was supposed to basement backups and surface flooding would have happened anyway.

GLWA also said that it is only liable for a basement backup if a defect in its sewage disposal system was 50% or more of the cause of the flooding, property damage or physical injury.

Below are the two factors as stated by GLWA:

  • “First are the findings of the independent investigation conducted on last Summer’s historic rain events, which determined that 1) widespread basement flooding was inevitable due to the unprecedented amount and intensity of the rainfall that occurred on June 25-26, 2021; and 2) even if every piece of piping and equipment in the regional system worked in an ideal manner on June 25-26, basement backups and surface flooding would still have occurred in GLWA’s system, or any other collection system designed to today’s standard. All reports and presentations on last summer’s rain events, including the independent investigation’s final report, can be found here.”
  • “The second is that under Michigan’s Governmental Liability for Negligence Act, a public entity such as GLWA can only be liable for a sewage disposal system event (a basement backup) if a defect in its sewage disposal system was the substantial proximate cause (50 percent or more of the cause) of the event and property damage or physical injury.”

“We understand the difficult situations homeowners and businesses face when flooding occurs,” said Suzanne R. Coffey, GLWA’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are experiencing increased frequency and intensity of storms hitting our region. This is why it’s critical to focus on building resiliency in the regional system. Even before the release of the final report from the Independent Investigators, GLWA began working to implement key infrastructure and process improvements to help address the stresses put on an infrastructure system not built for this level of rain. We remain committed to doing everything within our power and to working closely with our infrastructure partners in southeast Michigan, to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. "


  • GLWA says an independent investigation found that the rainfall caused basement and surface flooding on June 25 and June 26 of 2021 and it was not a defect in the regional collection system.
  • According to GLWA, Michigan’s Governmental Liability for Negligence Act states a public entity can only be liable for a sewage disposal system event if a defect in the system was 50% or more of the cause of the event and property or physical damage.
  • GLWA has denied all flooding claims it has received from those dates where heavy rainfall was the primary cause of basement and surface flooding.

Read: Severe storms leave homes flooded, cars stranded across Metro Detroit

What is GLWA doing now to prevent flooding?

It is working with legislators to find funding for a Flood Risk Mitigation Study for Southeast Michigan.

If the funding is found, the study will be conducted with the Army Corps of Engineers and evaluate the implementation of wastewater storage at grade or deep tunnel levels, using pumping stations for discharge, constructing large diameter relief sewers, and strategic sewer separation to address the long-term impacts of climate change.

GLWA suggests that in the meantime, homeowners take steps to protect their homes. They suggest disconnecting downspouts, checking basement walls and foundation for leaks, disposing of grease properly (not in the drains), and snaking drains and the sewer lateral service line every two years.

Read: Metro Detroit neighborhoods impacted by floods, State of Emergency declared


Pictures of the flooding around Metro Detroit on June 26, 2021.
Flooding at John Kronk Street and Central Avenue in Detroit
A flooded street in Metro Detroit
Pickup truck drives through aftermath of flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit
Car drives through aftermath of I-94 flooding in Metro Detroit
Aerial video shows flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit on June 28, 2021
A semi truck stuck on a flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
A car stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stuck on a flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
A semi truck stranded on a flooded stretch of I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
A car stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
A car stuck on a flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Semi trucks stuck on a flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
A car stuck on a flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stuck on a flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
Cars stranded after major flooding on I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
A car stuck on a flooded I-94 in Metro Detroit. (WDIV)
When will I-94 in Metro Detroit reopen after severe flooding?
Images of the flooding damage on I-94 in Metro Detroit, taken on June 28, 2021. (WDIV)

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.