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Detroit Stormwater Drainage Fee

May 1, 2013

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has begun to impose a storm water "drainage fee" on commercial land serviced by its sewer system. The fee can range from $20.82 per month for open land with no impervious surfaces to $607.14 per acre per month for land at least 75% covered by impervious surface. DWSD claims that it has had the authority to impose this storm water drainage fee for many years but admits that it has failed to do so for many of its commercial customers. For such customers, it is also demanding payment of the fees for the past six years. An owner of one acre of land that is at least 75% impervious surface will have storm water drainage liability of $43,714 for the past six years and $7,286 per year going forward. For landowners of more than an acre, the drainage fee liability multiplies accordingly. For a reference point, the City of Ann Arbor also imposes a storm water runoff fee, but it is less than one-fifth of Detroit’s fee.

The drainage fee is in addition to fees for discharges of wastewater to the sewer system. It is solely for snow melt and rain runoff into the City’s combined sewer system, which services nearly all of the City.

DWSD has not yet imposed the fee on most commercial landowners serviced by its system, but has stated its intention to do so. Therefore, landowners who have not yet been charged the fee can expect to receive a bill for such charges in the near future. Further, DWSD has been recalculating the fee for many of the small number of landowners who already have been paying it, leading to sudden and large fee increases for those landowners. Some companies who are already being charged the fee may not realize it because the fee is simply included within their existing monthly water/sewer bills.

We have heard from several landowners who are upset about the fee and are looking to organize a group to challenge it.

If you are interested in possibly challenging the fee or knowing more about it, please contact a member of our Real Estate Department.

Recent news articles regarding this matter:

  • Detroit Free Press - "Detroit businesses upset over big tabs for rainwater runoff" 
  • Crain's Detroit Business 
    • "Businesses plan united challenge to DWSD’s surprise runoff fees" 
    • Opinion "Surprise runoff fees a debacle for DWSD"
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