Mayor, DWSD announce up to $15M program to reduce basement backups in 11 flood prone neighborhoods 

  • $2.4M pilot to begin this spring in Aviation Sub and Victoria Park, then expand to 9 more neighborhoods with history of basement backup
  • City to install backwater valves and sump pumps to protect basements from flooding
  • Pilot to be paid for by ARPA-funded Detroit Future Fund, city seeking funds for expansion
  • City plans to use mostly Detroit contractors to perform work
  • Eligible homeowners can apply online at www.detroitmi.gov/basementprotection


DETROIT – Today, Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown announced the Basement Backup Protection Program, an up to $15 million initiative to assist residential homeowners in protecting their property during rainstorms by installing a backwater valve and/or sump pump. Homeowner occupants and landlords in 11 identified neighborhoods are eligible to apply today for the program, which is being paid for with a portion of the city’s share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

“Last year’s massive rainstorm overwhelmed the sewer system, and in turn identified two areas we need to work on together,” said Mayor Duggan. “First, how can we make the sewer system more climate resilient and secondly, in the near term how can we help homeowners in flood prone areas protect their property. The Detroit Future Fund has created that opportunity for Detroiters right now.”

In response to increasingly frequent and severe weather events experienced last summer, DWSD Director Brown, spoke with the Mayor, as well as with other cities and experts. DWSD began designing a program that provides protection to residential homeowners in Detroit neighborhoods that have historically experienced basement backups during large rain events.

“The Basement Backup Protection Program builds on the successes we’ve seen with programs in Windsor, New Jersey and Washington, DC and refines it for what we believe will work in Detroit. Rather than a reimbursement-based subsidy program where homeowners get their own plumber, our program provides the complete services from plumber selection to inspection to installation,” said Brown.

Who is eligible?
Owners of occupied single-family houses, two-family flats and duplexes are eligible to apply if they are in the identified neighborhoods.

The pilot, or Phase 1, will launch this spring. This phase will be in the Aviation Sub and Victoria Park neighborhoods, which were the hardest hit with basement backups and flooding during the June 25-26, 2021 rain event, as well as other rainstorms.

Phase 2, which will begin this summer, will be in Barton-McFarland, Chadsey Condon, Cornerstone Village, East English Village, Garden View, Jefferson Chalmers, Morningside, Moross-Morang and Warrendale. These neighborhoods were identified based on DWSD service requests for basement backups and claims.

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The city is prepared to pay up to $6,000 per household to help protect them from backups and Mayor Duggan said the Program will use primarily Detroit-based contractors. Eight contractors have been identified through an RFP process, five of which are Detroit-based. Contracts are pending City Council consideration this month. Each contractor will be assigned a set number of houses in phase one. Based on satisfaction surveys, DWSD will rate the contractors and make selections for phase two when work will begin in Summer 2022.

The menu of customized services available to homeowners include:

  • Camera inspection of sewer lateral service line
  • Disconnect downspouts and install extensions three feet from foundation
  • Install backwater valve only if sewer lateral is in viable condition
  • Install sump pump on properties where possible
  • Install backwater valve and sump pump with overflow

How it works and what the program will include
Eligible homeowners can apply online at www.detroitmi.gov/basementprotection. Once the application is preliminarily approved, the City of Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED) will perform a courtesy inspection for house conditions and occupancy. Next, the assigned licensed plumber will inspect the home and speak with the homeowner to suggest appropriate services, depending on the house and property.

For all eligible houses, at the very least the downspouts will be disconnected from the underground drain system, if not already, and extensions will be added to direct stormwater to the yard. The plumber will inspect the sewer pipe with a camera to make sure it’s in viable condition. If the private sewer pipe is collapsed or has a crack or other defect, the homeowner will have to get that repaired at their own expense before they can proceed with the program.

Backwater valves, also known as backflow preventers or check valves, restrict the flow of sewage in one direction only – out of the home into the sewer system, preventing the sewage from pushing back into the home during large wet weather events. A plumber will install the backwater valve in the basement on the sewer line in the home. The valve opens only when sewage is leaving the home. For the valve to work at optimal levels and block sewage backups during rain events, homeowners should not use sinks, drains, toilets, laundry washer and dishwasher during heavy rain to minimize the amount of time the valve is opened. 

Sump pumps move water from the lowest point of the basement out of the home. A plumber will carve out a hole in the floor of the basement and install the sump pump. The pump’s valves sense escalating water levels and turn on when the water pressure threshold is met, pumping water away from the home through a discharge line. Not all homes in Detroit need a sump pump – the plumber’s assessment will determine if a sump pump is needed. 

Deposit required unless income eligible
The Basement Backup Protection Program is funded by the Detroit Future Fund, which was created by funds approved by U.S. Congress and President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). No water and sewer rate dollars are being used to fund this program.

Approved homeowner occupants will be required to pay a 10% deposit of the total cost to DWSD before the plumber can begin work. The deposit will be waived if the homeowner is income-qualified through the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP). Approved landlords are required to pay a 20% deposit for each eligible house and do not qualify for the waiver.

WRAP is the region’s water assistance program. Residential households at or below 200% of the federal poverty level qualify. That is a maximum annual income of $53,000 for a family of four. WRAP provides a $25 monthly bill credit for up two years, up to $1,200 for a past due balance, and up to $2,000 in minor plumbing repairs if eligible. Seniors 65 years of age or older, persons with disabilities and Veterans receive the $25 monthly water bill credit for a lifetime once enrolled.

Phase one to begin this spring, program ends by December 2023
Residents in single-family homes, two-family flats and duplexes in the 11 identified neighborhoods are eligible for up to 90% costs covered, unless waived for low-income households. Landlords can receive up to 80% costs covered. The program is not offered to commercial property or nonprofits.

Phase 1 of the project, considered the pilot, is currently offered to homeowners in Victoria Park and Aviation Sub neighborhoods, which were the hardest hit during the June 25-26, 2021, rain event and have a history of basement backups during rainstorms. Phase 1 is scheduled to begin in Spring 2022 and end in Summer 2022. 

Phase 2 of the project is scheduled to begin in July 2022 and end in December 2024 for the other nine eligible neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are based on a history of basement backups and flooding reported to DWSD, and funding availability. 
 

Application
Residents can apply for the program by submitting an online application form at www.detroitmi.gov/basementprotection. Renters in the 11 neighborhoods should speak with their landlord – only the homeowner can apply.

If an eligible homeowner needs assistance in applying, call DWSD at 313-267-8000 and the customer service specialist will complete the online application on your behalf. 

What if I already got a backwater valve?
The Basement Backup Protection Program is only for the installation of new equipment. Due to the funding source, DWSD cannot reimburse for existing backwater valves and/or sump pumps, including the repair of those items.

What about other Detroit neighborhoods?
DWSD recognizes that homeowners across the city have aging infrastructure on their property that may cause basement backups during rain events and even on dry days due to clogged or collapsed sewer lines coming from their homes. They also may encounter burst pipes in the winter. This spring, a warranty service provider will begin offering homeowners a water service line and sewer service line protection program for a monthly fee of less than $8 per house that will substantially reduce their costs to repair or replace a broken sewer service line on their property. Without this insurance, it can cost more than $10,000 to replace a private sewer service line.

DWSD has published a Basement Backup and Flooding Handbook for all residents which is posted at www.detroitmi.gov/basementprotection. This handbook provides reasons why basements flood, helpful tips, and updates on DWSD and the Great Lakes Water Authority infrastructure plans. The public can also request a copy be mailed.

About the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department 
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) delivers clean water and collects sanitary sewage and stormwater from more than 230,000 accounts, representing a residential population of nearly 700,000. DWSD’s water system consists of more than 2,700 miles of water main and 29,000-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. Since June 2019, DWSD has committed $100 million per year to begin to address the aging infrastructure, including replacing lead service lines. To learn more about DWSD or to request water services, make payments, apply for affordability programs, or report water or sewer emergencies, call DWSD Customer Service at 313-267-8000, use the Improve Detroit mobile app, or visit www.detroitmi.gov/dwsd.

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