Some of the garbage piling up in front of Percy Davisā?? home in Detroit on Tuesday. After the heavy rain fell on metro Detroit last week, lots of basements were flooded, and homeowners were looking for help. / Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT - Heaps of stinking, festering flood debris lined curbs Tuesday - more than a week after high waters soaked thousands of basements throughout Detroit and its suburbs.
"Trash is piled high in front on my house, rats are digging through my garbage, along with scrappers," Huntington Woods resident Sarah Mountain, 32, said in an e-mail, adding that she and her family are staying indoors "because it is so unhealthy outside."
Garbage haulers have struggled to keep up since the historic Aug. 11 rainstorm, with cities near the intersection of I-696 and I-75 especially hard hit, along with others in Detroit and western Wayne County. Bacteria and mold are notorious for growing in flood-damaged furniture, carpets and more. A distinctly foul odor can be observed in neighborhoods where the piles of trash haven't been cleared, leaving residents frustrated.
"We've got a lot of overtime, and the volumes of those communities have been staggering," said Joe Munem, spokesman for Rizzo Environmental Services, which picks up trash in Madison Heights and Royal Oak, among other municipalities.
Piles of black trash bags, all kinds of furniture and random items from stationary bicycles to children's toys and Christmas decorations were pitched from basements after submersion in up to several feet of murky floodwater. Even in places where haulers have made progress, new piles have started as more flood-damaged material is ripped from basements.
Warren, with roughly 18,000 affected residences, appears to have the most citywide damage. The city hauls its own trash, and Mayor Jim Fouts said $100,000 has already been spent on overtime in dealing with the disaster.
"I've said, 'Spare no costs,' " he said, regarding trash removal. "The citizens of Warren have already undergone enough stress in their lives. ... They don't need to stare at all the junk in front of their yards."
Scavengers are another reason he wants the trash quickly moved. Fouts said people drive around at night and pick up discarded furniture so they can sell it to people without telling them it soaked in filthy floodwater.
Neighboring city Madison Heights had 40 extra trucks brought in Saturday to help haul the garbage. On that day, 1,100 tons was removed from the city. That number is equal to 12% of what the city hauls in the average year, said Jeff Mueller, assistant city manager in Madison Heights.
"I hate to see the final numbers of all of this," he said. "I guess Madison Heights is going to weigh a lot less."
Gov. Rick Snyder has declared the flooding that affected Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties a disaster, and numerous local communities have declared emergencies. Residents are encouraged to contact their cities and submit records of their losses.
Fouts is pushing for federal government help, and officials say the records will help make it clear the extent of damage.
In Huntington Woods, the city has struggled as the trash hauler, Tringali Sanitation, appears to be overwhelmed.
"They had five trucks break down with serious, serious problems," said Claire Galed, co-manager of public works for Huntington Woods. "Their trucks aren't made for this."
She said construction-type materials such as large pieces of wood ripped from basements caused mechanical problems for the trucks. Phone and e-mail messages to Tringali weren't immediately returned to the Free Press on Tuesday. Galed said the company deserves kudos for having spent extra time in the city last week.
For comparison: On Aug. 5, the haulers moved 32.7 tons. In 2 1/2 days after the flood last week, they moved 944.95 tons, she said.
"I have heard from some residents that they were missed, and that could have happened," Galed said.
For Mountain, only regular trash cans were emptied Aug. 12. Since then, no flood or construction debris had been touched as of about 5 p.m. Tuesday, she said in an e-mail.
"It's spilling into the street and sidewalk," she said.
Detroit wasn't immune to the flooding. Cheryl Woods, a retiree, had about 2 feet of water in her basement. Many of her neighbors in the Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood were still digging out Tuesday. Big piles of ruined belongings lined street after street after homes were inundated with rainwater and raw sewage.
"I've lost all my sewing stuff, because I sew a little bit, and I've lost clothes, electrical appliances, machines. There's no telling what else," she said as a crew helped her sort and remove all that and more, including furniture.
Contributing: Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press
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Read the original story: Flood debris, frustrations pile up in Detroit suburbs