DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency Friday for Macomb County due to last month’s collapse of a massive sewage line that has caused a football field-sized sinkhole in one of its communities.
The disaster declaration makes state resources available to the county and communities affected by the sewer collapse. It also raises the possibility that state, and possibly federal funds, could be secured to pay for some of the work and costs.
The sewer collapse was discovered Christmas Eve after a family in Fraser, north of Detroit, awoke to find their home sinking. That house and two others have been condemned. Families in 19 other homes have been temporarily evacuated after water and gas services were cut.
“The terrible situation in Fraser has displaced families and caused a burden to those living in the area,” Snyder said in a release. “The state is committed to using all of its resources and working with local partners to ensure this community recovers and residents return to a sense of normalcy.”
Following the collapse of the line about 50 feet below a major roadway, crews were forced at one point to pump sewage into the Clinton River. Sewage now is being pumped through temporary pipes into a working section of the line as crews construct a temporary bypass. County officials have asked residents to voluntary conserve water.
Snyder’s office said there is a threat of “widespread and severe damage” to 11 communities, a military base and more than 200,000 homes where a half-million people live. Homes and businesses would be at risk if the ground shifted, the sinkhole expands or severe weather rolls into the area, according to the release.
“The bypass is of critical importance,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel told The Associated Press on Friday. “It’s going to keep basements from backing up.”
Hackel declared a county state of emergency this week. He said Snyder’s declaration affirms the state’s interest in helping to deal with the problem.
“You’re taking a sewer line that has had some problems in the past and is going to need some significant repairs going forward,” Hackel said.
In 2004, a 160 feet long, 60 feet wide and 30 feet deep sinkhole opened when another section of the sewer line collapsed in nearby Sterling Heights. It took months and about $55 million to repair that pipe and sinkhole.
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