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Doherty: June 2021 flood victims still demanding compensation, change

We will no longer accept excuses. We demand justice and a future where we can live without fear of the next rainstorm. 


It’s been three years since devastating floods swamped a large section of Wayne County. 

For numerous reasons, I cannot forget the floods, and our community still bears the painful scars as a daily reminder. Detroit’s second 100-year flood in just seven years should have been a wake-up call for systemic change. Instead, we are still grappling with the same failures, inaction and empty promises from our government. 

While our homes and lives have been turned upside down, the courts continue to protect the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and other entities responsible through governmental immunity, leaving us flood victims with no recourse and no justice. 

On June 26, 2021, I navigated through nine feet of murky water that had consumed my basement, ruining everything from appliances to furniture. The devastation wasn’t isolated to my home. The Grosse Pointe communities, Dearborn, Inkster and Detroit, especially the lower east side, faced similar ruin, with neighbors dragging waterlogged belongings to the curb equating to thousands of dollars and priceless memories lost. 

Less than one month later, on July 16, another heavy rainstorm struck, repeating the cycle of destruction. It was a foreseeable disaster, born out of years of negligence and mismanagement. 

Now, Wayne County residents live with an eye always on the forecast, watching the skies with dread every time heavy rain is expected. The mental and emotional toll is immense, compounded by the frustration of being ignored and sidelined by their own government. In 2021, the City of Grosse Pointe Park deflected blame to the GLWA, whose Conner Creek Pump Station failed. Despite assurances that the pumps were operational, most did not activate and the ones that did were overwhelmed, exposing glaring vulnerabilities in our infrastructure. 

These failures are not new. A 2016 report from GLWA highlighted critical issues with the Conner Creek Pump Station, including priming problems that would prevent or delay their activation. Yet, these warnings were disregarded, leading to the catastrophic events of 2021. Since then, we’ve seen no meaningful action or substantial reforms. 

Adding insult to injury, a Wayne County judge dismissed our class action lawsuits from the 2021 floods in March of last year, despite attorneys not conducting a single deposition — an unheard-of “rush to judgment.” This decision came despite GLWA’s own 800-page report finding that water levels would have been five-to-seven-feet lower had all the storm pumps activated. We are challenging that ruling in the Michigan Court of Appeals. 

Ironically, on the three-year anniversary of the floods, heavy rain once again battered our area, a grim reminder of the ongoing threat we face and the utter lack of progress. Our infrastructure, designed for a different era and ignored for decades, is clearly inadequate for today’s climate realities. Yet, instead of proactive measures and comprehensive planning, we are met with inertia. The GLWA, DWSD and city officials have failed us repeatedly. Their negligence continues to put our homes and lives at risk. 

It is time for our community to demand accountability. We must insist these organizations and municipalities not only compensate flood victims for their losses but also present a concrete, actionable plan to overhaul our aging infrastructure. We can no longer tolerate a piecemeal approach or wait for the next disaster to spur action. The time for change is now, and our message is unequivocal: GLWA, DWSD and city officials must step up, take responsibility, and protect the residents they serve. We will no longer accept excuses. We demand justice and a future where we can live without fear of the next rainstorm. 

Paul Doherty is an attorney at Ven Johnson Law, PLC, and a Grosse Pointe Park resident who suffered more than $100,000 in damages following the June 2021 floods.