2021 Flooding

Flooded Basement
Photo Credit: Danielle Hennes

After the storm Saturday evening many basements flooded again. We don't know how many yet. Of course, everyone has questions. I don't have all the answers, but I'll share what I do know.

The quick facts:

  • Basement flooding is caused by very heavy rainfall in a very short period of time pushing sewage backwards into homes.
  • The occurrence of severe weather is continuing to increase, thus the increase in basement flooding.
  • It would likely exceed a billion dollars and take 100 years to separate our combined sewers to reduce the flooding.
  • This issue is not unique to Berkley. All the surrounding communities suffer similar flooding.
  • New construction is not the cause of the flooding. The population peaked at 23,000 in 1960. We only have 15,000 people now. This issue is not people flushing toilets but too much rain.
  • Berkley has one of the most aggressive sewer maintenance programs in the region.
  • Backwater valves (also known as backflow preventers) are the most cost effective way to prevent basement flooding.

What has Berkley done since the 2017 Flood?

  • More restrictive covers were added to help slow the flow of water into the storm system.
  • The city double the budget for new trees which capture storm water before it enters the system.
  • I introduced a resolution making reimbursing permit fees for backwater valves permanent and to educate homeowners about them.
  • I have looked for ways for the city to purchase or subsidize backwater valves for every home in the city, but this is very difficult if not impossible under the Michigan constitution.
  • The city is looking at green infrastructure and have started to incorporate these ideas into our codes, for example by allowing permeable pavers instead of concrete.
  • The city has long required new commercial development to have significant storm water retention capacity.
  • This is a regional problem that has impacted all of our neighbors and will require a regional solution. The city has been working with the Oakland County Water Resource Commission for years to recognize that this issue needs addressed. They own all major pipes and sewer processing plants that we use, so progress can only be made with their cooperation. Only recently did they finally acknowledge something needs done. The lack of regional progress is not due to a lack of effort on the city's part.

I know I'm not here with good news. If these were easy problems, they would already have been solved.

For everyone who can, please install a backflow preventer device. This is by far the best thing you can do. If you can't afford one, the county has a program for qualified low income residents pay for one. Meanwhile, I will continue to explore these and other options to provide relief to homeowners.