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$12.5M Settlement Reached Over 2016 Sinkhole that Destroyed 3 Houses

— October 2, 2020

Earlier this week, Macomb County agreed to a $12.5 million settlement, ending a lawsuit over a massive 2016 sinkhole near Detroit.

Earlier this week, a $12.5 million settlement was reached, ending a lawsuit filed shortly after a “2016 sinkhole on Christmas Eve destroyed homes and created a pit the size of a football field on 15 Mile Road in Fraser” in Detroit. The settlement was announced by Candice Miller, the Macomb County Public Works Commissioner. According to her, the settlement will be paid “by the insurance company for three contractors whose mistakes led to the massive sinkhole.” She added that the settlement is the “largest settlement the county has obtained for any litigation.”

Handshake: image courtesy of geralt via Pixabay,

What happened, though? How did the sinkhole form? Well, according to Miller, a crack formed in the sewage pipe, “causing an infiltration of sand into the pipe and the eventual collapse of the line and ground.” Miller argued that “human error was to blame” for the incident. As a result of the sinkhole, “three homes were condemned, two of which were demolished…a temporary bypass system was constructed and a new sewage line was completed at a cost of $75 million.”

Miller added that “additional lining work will be done on a remaining section of the huge pipe under 15 Mile in Sterling Heights to improve it so there are no future sinkholes, and other problems in other sections of the line have been repaired after inspections.” This wasn’t the first sinkhole to happen on the line, though. In fact, back in 2004, one happened “on 15 Mile in Sterling Heights.”

There were two prior sinkholes on the line, including one in 2004 on 15 Mile in Sterling Heights. When commenting on the cost for taxpayers, Miller said the “average ratepayer cost in the 11-community drainage district is about $25 per house per year for 25 years.” She added that despite the recent settlement, ratepayers won’t see a decrease in rates. Instead, funds from the settlement “will go to improving the remaining line in a $28 million project.” Additional rate increases aren’t expected anytime in the future. She added:

“It’s important to have closure for everyone…We are committed to taking care of our infrastructure, not just in the immediacy here, but to do what we need to do for future generations as well, so we’re all about maintaining our underground. And just because it’s out of sight, it can’t be out of mind. We have to fix this stuff.”

Helen and Jack Finegan, a couple who live in a condo across 15 Mile, chimed in on the settlement and the sinkhole and said “their private roads were damaged by heavy equipment traveling on them for months to get to the site.” They added that they had to “pay $40,000 to repair the roads, with the county giving them $5,000 to help.” Mrs. Finegan said:

“I think the whole thing was frustrating, but now we’re happy, now we’re happy. We’re perfectly content. After listening to (Miller), I hope this is gonna be the last time…A lot of heartbreak and inconvenience, but we’re there now. We’re good.”


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