DWSD cleans 30,000th catch basin following commitment to program launched in 2017 to reduce street flooding in neighborhoods

  • Program has reduced street flooding complaints by 70%
  • DWSD made an initial $3.9 million investment in equipment, hiring and training when program was launched in 2017
  • Program uses mapping system and tablets to track catch basin maintenance and helps determine long-term infrastructure repairs
  • Crews will continue to inspect and clean 10,000 catch basins, on average, per year

Today on the 3000 block of Margareta Avenue, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) inspected and cleaned its 30,000th catch basin after launching a comprehensive program in 2017. Catch basin cleaning helps reduce street flooding, and at times, also improves the effectiveness of the combined sewer system which collects both untreated sewage and stormwater in the same pipe.

Most often, DWSD crews are cleaning road debris, composted yard waste and other material in the basins that have clogged them and caused street flooding, and sometimes flooded yards.

The DWSD catch basin inspection and cleaning program is part of the sewer system preventative maintenance that was implemented in 2017 after years of neglect. One benefit of the standup of the Great Lakes Water Authority in 2016, was for DWSD to focus on the local water and sewer systems. A vastly improved bill collection rate provided the financial resources to begin to address the large number of clogged basins. When launched, the goal was to clean 10,000 catch basins per year, on average, with the 30,000 mark achieved this year. Prior to that, routine inspections and cleanings to city-owned storm drains had not been done since 2010.


Catch Basins Move Stormwater from Neighborhoods and Business Districts
Catch basins carry stormwater off city streets and nearby properties into the city’s combined sewer system. Detroit has an estimated 95,000 catch basins according to DWSD records. This does not include the catch basins on county-owned and state-owned roadways and freeways.

Catch basin inspection and cleaning is part of a comprehensive effort by DWSD to improve preventative maintenance for the combined sewer system. Clogged or broken catch basins largely cause street flooding which may lead into yards. Blocked catch basins do not cause basement flooding, that is mostly caused by an issue with the private sewer line, such as tree roots clogging the pipe.


Specialized Equipment, Employee Training and Technology
In 2017, DWSD purchased eight new sewer cleaning trucks, called Vactors, to have a fleet of 12 trucks, which was most of the initial $3.9 million investment. DWSD conducted comprehensive training on the new Vactor trucks, and they began to roll-out onto neighborhood streets in summer 2017. The trucks use a vacuum unit along with high-pressure water to remove debris from pipes, basins and other areas.

With the launch of the program, DWSD also implemented the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and field tablets for crews to indicate the exact locations of the basins inspected and cleaned, and add notes related to the condition of each basin. As a secondary measure, the basins are marked to ensure other crews know they have been inspected and cleaned.


Catch Basin Program Success Led to Employee Promotions
The lead DWSD employee over the program, Kenneth Miller, was successful at managing the reactive and preventative inspections and cleanings, reducing complaints by more than 70 percent. Last year, he was promoted as the Field Services Manager and oversees all water and sewer systems maintenance and repair, partly due to this program success. After Miller, Derrick Thornton was promoted this spring to the Service Line Leader for the Catch Basin Inspection and Cleaning Program and will continue to inspect and clean an average of 10,000 basins per year.

“This program has had a meaningful impact on our neighborhoods by providing a necessary service that reduces the flooding they were used to seeing on their street after a major rain event,” said Palencia Mobley, Deputy Director & Chief Engineer. “While we cannot eliminate all flooding, we have made significant strides in reducing it. This program has been pivotal in implementing new technology, creating strong employees and getting new recruits accustomed to sewer utility work. Under the leadership of Ken Miller, Bradford Grant and Derrick Thornton, we reached our goal of efficiently tackling 30,000 catch basins in three years. We are all proud of them and all the field service technicians involved in this program.”


Reporting Street Flooding and Clearing Leaves Off Streets
Detroiters who see street flooding can submit the information through the Improve Detroit mobile app by choosing clogged basin or street flooding or call 313-267-8000.

Mobley added, “We want to remind residents and businesses that reducing neighborhood flooding is a collaborative effort. Please make sure to clean leaves, trash and other debris in front of your property in order to reduce the clogging of the basins. In the Improve Detroit app, you can watch a catch basin informational video.”


Media Contact
Bryan Peckinpaugh
[email protected]

EDITORS/PRODUCERS: B-roll footage from this event will be available by 3 p.m. today, upon request. Photos are shared below and more images are also available upon request.

About The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) serves more than 230,000 accounts that includes a residential population of nearly 700,000. DWSD’s water system consists of more than 2,700 miles of water main and 30,000-plus fire hydrants, and the combined sewer collection system has nearly 3,000 miles of sewer piping, more than 90,000 catch basins and 16 green stormwater infrastructure projects within the city of Detroit. Beginning in June 2019, DWSD embarked on a five-year, $500 million program to begin to address the aging infrastructure, including replacing lead service lines. To learn more about DWSD or to request water services, make payments, enroll in assistance programs, or report water or sewer emergencies, call DWSD Customer Care at 313-267-8000, use the Improve Detroit mobile app, or visit www.detroitmi.gov/dwsd.