No Answers in Southwest Detroit as City Officials and DTE Energy Investigate Eruption

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Image credit: Screengrab of City of Detroit press conference

The Great Lakes Water Authority is storing solid waste on-site at a facility on Jefferson while DTE installs a temporary natural gas bypass.

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DTE Energy and city officials are still investigating the cause of this weekend’s rupture in Southwest Detroit. The area around Fort and Dearborn streets is closed to traffic after roads buckled about 8 feet upwards. Gas fumes can be seen coming through the cracked pavement, and Stash Detroit, a nearby marijuana dispensary, has been demolished after shifting dramatically upwards.

We’re still investigating the root cause of this ground upheaval, which continues to apply pressure to DTE’s utility equipment,” said Hakim Berry, chief operating officer for the City of Detroit, in a statement.

The site is unstable, the cause is not known, and the direction it is taking is unpredictable, and all of this is occurring in an area where we understand there are high-pressure gas lines.” Pastor Kevin Casillas, Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition

On Wednesday, DTE shut down a high-pressure natural gas pipe and is installing a temporary bypass for industries in the area. The installation will interrupt regular activity at the wastewater solids processing facility on Jefferson. The Great Lakes Water Authority is storing the waste on-site and expects an increase in foul odor from the facility but is not issuing any public health alerts.

Local leaders are calling for the city to issue an evacuation order for residents in the Delray neighborhood as street closures affect West Fort, Miller, Woodmere, Dearborn, Riverside and Stone.

The site is unstable, the cause is not known, and the direction it is taking is unpredictable, and all of this is occurring in an area where we understand there are high-pressure gas lines,” said Pastor Kevin Casillas with the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition in a statement.

The organization notes that the city skipped tree planting in the area this summer due to its underground infrastructure. Yet, a scrapyard next to Stash Detroit is storing several tons of iron ore near the eruption site.

An abundance of caution must continue to be taken to protect people. If we can’t assure people of their safety, we must let them know and provide them safe options. Thankfully, DTE has cut the gas from a main line to the area. In this yet unknown situation, we cannot subject families to further stress and fear for their safety,” said Casillas.

While the cause of the eruption is unknown, DTE officials say they’ve been investigating gas odors in the area for the past month.

We did make repairs in the area and then our safety testing equipment confirmed that there was no longer a gas leak before we left,” said Renee Tomina, vice president of gas operations for DTE Energy, on Monday. “Every indication that we have from our subject matter experts in what we have seen so far from the situation, we do not believe that it was natural gas related.”

Some residents complained about brown water in the aftermath of the initial eruption on Saturday. GLWA reported a water main break in the area at the time.

Sometimes when we isolate, water will move through pipes differently and create some brown water,” said GLWA interim CEO Suzanne Coffey on Monday. “That happens if we operate valves or other situations like that when water moves differently, but we did not lose pressure below the pressure that would be concerning to residents, so we are confident that the water is safe to drink.”

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Eli Newman, Reporter/Producer

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.

eli.newman@wdet.org Follow @other_eli

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