City of Detroit to step up efforts to address flooding in Jefferson Chalmers area

With already historic water levels and perhaps weeks before Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River crest, the City of Detroit is stepping up its efforts to stop river and canal water from flooding homes and streets in major areas of the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood.

During and since the holiday weekend, workers from the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, the Department of Public Works and Mayor’s office have been out in the neighborhood clearing storm drains, assessing problem areas and helping to place more barriers.  Despite those efforts, however, street and home flooding is still a major problem in some areas.

Today, the City announced it will manage the short term effort to keep the rising waters out of the neighborhood by preparing and placing thousands more sand bags in areas identified through a survey as being low spots along the seawall and banks.  Rather than simply offering sand bags to property owners for them to place, the city will use its employees and contracted workers to place the bags. 

Today, workers will be filling bags that they will begin to place starting on Thursday in the areas identified as needing reinforcement. 

Emergency Order issued

In a necessary procedural move, the City’s director of the Building Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department, David Bell, today issued an Emergency Order giving these workers the right to access the exterior of privately owned properties to place the sand bags as necessary to prevent water from flowing into neighborhoods. Per the Emergency Order, residents are not to remove sand bags until authorized by the City.  Those who do will be subject to a blight ticket of $500 and the possibility of a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of up to $500 and or 90 days in jail.

“While they may pose an inconvenience, the bags we are placing are to help protect residents’ homes and removing them at this time would allow the flood waters to pour into the neighborhood,” said Chief Operating Officer Hakim Berry.

Berry pointed out that this Order is necessary because the stakes, along with the water levels, are becoming higher.

Overburdened pumping system a concern

“At this point this is not just about protecting people’s homes and personal property. That is a major focus, but it’s also about reducing the demand on our wet weather pumping and treatment facilities,” said DWSD Director Gary Brown.

“Our system has performed beautifully given the extraordinary demand, but we have to alleviate the pressure from the river before we have more wet weather and our ability to collect and process sewage is either reduced or eliminated for a period of time,” Brown said.   

Brown said that to reduce some of the demand on the sewer system, DWSD crews have strategically blocked catch basins in some areas away from homes that don’t significantly impact the public. “This, of course, is a temporary but necessary measure until we are able to stop the floodwaters from entering the combined sewer system and they eventually begin to recede."

For more information about the City of Detroit’s flood response and available resources, please visit