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New GL Water Authority CEO vows transparency but can’t answer questions about massive damage claims

Posted at 8:43 AM, Aug 31, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Two months after the first heavy rain and massive sewer backups in Detroit and the Grosse Pointes, the new CEO of the Great Lakes Water Authority Suzanne Coffey says, “Number one, we’re committed to transparency. We’ve got these investigations going on. We’re absolutely committed to transparency.”

An internal and outside contractor are investigating what led to thousands of homes and businesses getting massive sewer backups in their basements and on their streets.

Detroit has gotten 30,000 claims for damage. How many claims into the Water Authority?

“I don’t have those numbers today. I really don’t. I know our legal team is working on that,” said Coffey.

7 Action News has been told by sources the GLWA has only $10 million in insurance coverage for these claims. Several lawsuits have been filed seeking hundreds of millions in damage.

When asked, Coffey said, “I really can’t answer that question. Our legal team would have to answer that question.”

Last night the Water Authority issued another alert to people who have had previous sewer backups. But what are they supposed to do or where are they supposed to go?

“If you have valuables in your basement you may want to bring them upstairs. If you have people in the lower levels you might want to bring them upstairs,” Coffee responded.

The media were given a tour of the two pump stations involved in the sewer backups. Conners Creek pump station has 12 pumps that were first built in 1929. The Freud Station has 8 pumps and was built in 1955.

Some backup generators are on site but officials say they are not designed to provide full emergency power. They say both pump stations have two external power sources coming in.

But back in June one line was accidentally cut four days before the big rain and not fixed. It had devastating results.

“Three of eight were able to operate because of the power outage, yes,” said Navid Mehram, the COO of Wastewater with GLWA.

More information is coming. Claims will be decided until the two investigations are done in the weeks ahead.

GLWA continues to meet with city and state officials to plan future improvements.