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Saturday, 4 June, 2011 4:39 PM

Flooded Basement Forum: Livonia residents share their displeasure at city hall

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A citizen of Livonia addresses Mayor Kirksey and other city officials during the flooded basement forum on June 2, 2011.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

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LIVONIA, Mich. -- Last week, thousands of Livonia residents woke up to flooded basements after several inches of rain fell across the area. Mayor Jack Kirksey and other city officials held a public forum to hear comments from residents on Thursday evening at the Livonia City Hall. The chamber was packed solid with unhappy citizens. Additional residents watched from television screens in the lobby and on the fifth floor of the building. The city responded to the situation during the first part of the forum with the second half reserved for comments by citizens.

The city has 96,942 residents, according to the recent 2010 U.S. Census. A total of 1,100 of the 38,089 households in Livonia had flooded basements. There may have been more than 100 different types of bacteria in the flooded water. Livonia received 4.05 inches of rain in a 12-hour period including 1.87 inches of rain in the first hour of the May 25 storm. It is considered to be the third highest rainfall amount in the city's history.

"I have a crawl space and I had a foot of water in the crawl space," said Livonia resident Scott Tefft. "I found that on Friday, but it has since gone down. I still have damage to the items in my basement and I need to rip out some of the insulation I had in the floor boards and I need to replace my plastic vents. It's going to be a hit for my finances to get a loan to make some replacement to parts of the furnace vents that are not made out of metal. I came to find out what resources were available to recover from my losses."

Some people received as much as two or three feet of raw sewage coming up from their basement sewers. Other residents were lucky to only receive an inch of dirty water rising from the floor. The hardest hit areas of the city were the homes located between 5 Mile Road and Schoolcraft Road. Homes located on the east side of the city closest to Inkster Road received the most damage while homes located on the western part of town near Haggerty Road received the least.

" We feel very, very bad about what has happened," said Mayor Jack Kirksey. "It not only overloaded our sewer system, but also the county system. I am trying to present a realistic way that works in whether claims are honored, partially honored or not honored at all. Because many of you have started the restoration of your basements. There are a number of people going to Livonia saying 'We can do it for so many thousands of dollars. You submit the bill and the city of Livonia will pay it.' None of this information is true."

The mayor explained it is against the law to pump raw sewage into streams unless it is an emergency. Many citizens wondered how their flooded basement was not considered to be an emergency. The city began pumping as soon as it noticed that the storm sewers couldn't accept any more water. Then, it sent Waste Management trucks down streets to haul away the debris for free.

"I'm just worried about the mold growth and making sure we get that all cleaned up," said citizen Janine Gillow. "Two of our boys have their bedroom in the basement. Of course, they lost their mattress, clothes, couch, sofas, TVs, appliances. We're lucky we've got our furnace going and our hot water tank, but unfortunately our refrigerator went. That's what I'm worried about, some health issues. We use our basement a lot. We just want to make sure nothing happens again. We had about 15 inches of water come in. It came up so fast."

Residents were given one-page claim forms to fill out with a 45-day deadline. Since the storm hit on May 25, the last day a claim form will be accepted is on July 9. Mayor Kirksey said some claims will not be honored at all, while others will be partially honored if it is determined that the city if responsible for the problem. Each case will be investigated separately.

"This is a standard insurance policy that most of you have," said Ken Hale, chairman and CEO of Cambridge Underwriters. "It has an absolute exclusion for water damage by seepage by water backups by sump pump overflow and so forth. Most insurance companies then add $5,000 in coverage for water backup or sump pump overflow. Even if you have that coverage, you would not have coverage for water that seeps through walls or through foundations. You all have an exposure to mold. Unfortunately, the federal flood program excludes any personal property in a basement that does not have a walk-out door."

The city's basement sewer system is totally separate from the street sewers. There are 9,900 manholes in the city along with 445 miles of pipes underground. Only seven employees are currently working in Livonia's sewer department to keep and eye on those pipes, sewers and manhole covers.

"We were here in Livonia all week helping everybody out with pump outs and clean up," said Steve Mitchell, an estimator and project manager at BROADCO Property Restoration. "We were anxious to see what the city was going to do for everybody. Anybody else who hasn't been cleaned up yet, we'd like to help out. We have no affiliation with the city, we're here on our own time. Since last Wednesday, we were probably at 25-30 houses. It's the sewer water so there's contaminants backed up threw the sewer in these people's basements. It's the bacteria in the water, it's grossly unsanitary."

Some citizens offered suggestions on how to go about fixing the problem. One resident said the raw sewage should have been diverted to Hines Park, which is known as a flood basin when it rains. Another person said there is a design flaw in the sewage system, "Why is water being diverted into properties?" he asked. Another citizen said there should be more bodies working in the sewer department to stop this problem from happening again.

"We still provide a 24/7 emergency response line," said Kevin Maillard, the city's director of public works. "If a call comes into the police department, we response immediately to take care of the problem. Up to May 25, which was the rain event, we felt we had resolved all of the problems in the storm system. Everything was flowing well. The department provides an extensive maintenance of the storm sanitary system. "

The city of Livonia said it would help those who are physically unable to clean their basement on their own and those who do not have the financial resources. Everyone else was told to contact their insurance company or take out a loan. For most, the damaged items that were lost can never be replaced.

One man by the name of Glenn Moon remained positive throughout the entire discussion. The Livonia resident said he was blessed because he didn't get any raw sewage in his basement. Moon indicated that he is a write-in candidate for the Livonia Mayoral Election in Nov. 2011. He held up a copy of Wednesday's USA Today newspaper and pointed out Ryan Kesler's picture on the front cover. Kesler is a Livonia native who is playing for the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

"I visit frequently Panera Bread and one of the fellows that's there regularly is a city employee," Moon said. "He works for the city of Livonia in the water department. He and I had talked about the situation with the water and the storm. He just mentioned there was going to be a meeting. I thought this was going to be a city council meeting. I had no specific damage. No one was killed, no one was injured. We in Livonia that we need to keep in mind that there are people on this planet who have a whole lot of bigger problems than we do. You will need to write my name down, Glenn Moon, and you also have to fill in the little circle for your vote to count."

For more information on basement flooding, visit the city of Livonia's official website at www.ci.livonia.mi.us.

 

 

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Hundreds of Livonia residents packed the lobby of city hall, which served as the overflow area.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Tim McGillivary is the Emergency Preparedness Director at the city of Livonia.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

More of the citizens as they watched TV screens of the flooded basement forum inside the Livonia City Hall.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Another Livonia citizen who addressed the panel

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The auditorium was filled with residents for the flooded basement forum.

 

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