By Nushrat Rahman, BridgeDetroit  

Homeowners in some Detroit neighborhoods can apply for a new city program to help protect their basements from future flooding.

City officials announced the Basement Backup Protection Program on Monday. It’s an up to $15 million plan, with a pilot phase funded by $2.4 million in federal COVID-19 pandemic relief dollars.

Last summer’s severe rainfall — deemed a major disaster by President Joe Biden — left cars stranded on flooded freeways and damaged homes and businesses. The event led to the creation of the program to install backwater valves and sump pumps, and protect residential homeowners in 11 Detroit neighborhoods who have historically faced basement backups during large downpours.

Late last June when nearly 6 inches of rain fell, more than 32,000 basements saw backed-up rainwater or combined sewage.

“We had about a dozen neighborhoods in this city that are low-lying areas, vulnerable to flooding in times of torrential rains,” Mayor Mike Duggan said Monday during a news briefing.

The program will first begin in the Aviation Sub and Victoria Park neighborhoods, two communities that were hit hardest during the June floods, according to the city. That work will launch in spring and 530 homes are expected to be eligible across those two neighborhoods.

Then in the summer, the program will focus on the following areas: Barton-McFarland, Chadsey Condon, Cornerstone Village, East English Village, Garden View, Jefferson Chalmers, Morningside, Moross-Morang and Warrendale. The city identified these neighborhoods because of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) service requests for basement backups and claims. This second phase of the initiative is slated to run from July to December 2024.

The city says it can pay up to $6,000 per household.

“If you’re in one of the 11 neighborhoods, apply now. Our plumbing contractors need to understand the capacity, how many people … they need to hire to be ready to get this job done,” said Gary Brown, DWSD director.

Owners of occupied single family homes, two-family flats and duplexes are eligible.

Once an application is approved, the city of Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environment Department (BSEED) will perform an inspection. A licensed plumber will then look at the home and suggest appropriate services.

Those may include: inspection of sewer lateral service line with a camera, disconnecting downspouts and installing extensions 3 feet from the foundation, installing a backwater valve only if sewer lateral is in “viable condition,” installing sump pumps where possible, and putting in place backwater valves and sump pumps with overflow.

Backwater valves can prevent sewage from traveling back into a home during a heavy rainfall. Sump pumps move water out of a home from a basement. The program does not cover private sewer line repairs and replacements, or fixing up other private plumbing.

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