Just Months Before 2001 City Task Force Picked Mandatory FDDs as “Solution” to City Sewage Overflows, City Admitted Lack of “Certainty” About FDD Data, Effectiveness

City Task Force Admitted toHigher Level of Certainty [in] the Other Solutions”

The City Council passed the mandatory FDD Program in August 2001. In 2001 and since, City of Ann Arbor officials, staff, attorneys, employees, contractors and others involved with the Footing Drain Disconnection Program billed FDD’s to the City at large and to the homeowners in five FDDP “Target Areas” as a safe, effective and cheap solution to flooding problems and sewage overflows into the Huron and local tributaries.

As the previous post shows, however, the City apparently completed mandatory FDDs, without the knowledge of owners, free of requirements of State Building Codes on the basis of an administrative determination in Lansing, without notice to anyone.

Quite apart from expecting code enforcement by the City and State, however, the thousands of residents involved had separate expectations based on trust in the honesty and competence of the City government. They would have been justified in thinking that if the City were going to require construction in thousands of private homes, then the City would certainly have had the highest confidence in the functioning, safety and effectiveness of FDDs to do what they were advertised as doing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as alleged in Paragraph 73 of the FDD Federal Class Action Complaint, the City admitted in writing that FDDs were unproven and lacking in scientific support when the City began doing them.

The City’s Water Utility Department published a flyer in January 2001 that included a Q&A about the City’s confidence in FDDs. This was the question, on page 2:

[Question:] The Task Force says there is less ‘certainty’ about the ‘footing drain disconnect’ solution. Why?

The surprising, lengthy official answer, supplied by the same City “Task Force,” was as follows, with some of my comments on the text:

[Answer:] We have less than complete data on the amount of wet weather flow from the foundation footing drains that gets into the sewer system during storms.

In other words, the City had no scientific basis for recommending (let alone requiring) footing drain disconnections as the City’s complete solution to sewage overflows. The various statements contradict the entire premise of the FDDP narrative–that disabling residential footing drain systems would remove so much stormwater from the sewers that no physical construction or other alternative was preferable.

With “less than complete data,” more data collection was planned:

Instituting this alternative as a solution will include additional work to complete the data collection to bring the same higher level of certainty as the other solutions.

If you think this implied that the City would first collect more data, attain the “higher level certainty” it lacked in FDDs or fail; and only then start going into people’s houses, you’d be sorely mistaken.

Instead, the flyer states that as FDDs were built, “flow data collection from these locations will be used to increase the confidence in the flow projections.”

“These locations” refers to targeted houses under the FDDP. The City had empowered itself to order homeowners (without any due process) to act as the City’s canaries in the FDD coal mine. The City decided, without notice to them, that it needed these citizens to submit their houses to destructive mandatory FDD construction so that the City could mine that data to “increase [the City’s] confidence in the flow projections.”

What if FDDs didn’t work out? The City had an answer for that too:

If the newly collected data does not increase our level of certainty about this remedy, the Task Force would recommend different protection measures for the neighborhood.

It would appear from the City’s words that the FDDP was still an R&D project in the data collection phase when the program was launched. Homeowners were not told that failure of the experimental construction was contemplated as a real possibility, even though the construction was mandatory and permanent.

What was the City’s hurry?

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