After The Rain

The Lesters' Story

When it rains, it pours.

Eddie and Minnie Lester know this all too well.

In their Southeast Waterfront Neighborhood in Detroit, heavy rains in recent years have flooded homes, closed streets, backed up sewers, and generally wreaked havoc.

“We’re afraid every time it rains that our basement is going to flood,” says Minnie.

And with good reason. Research by Professor Larissa Larsen at the University of Michigan says that heavy rains are up 45 percent in the last five years in Michigan. In and around Detroit, this spells disaster as the aging sewer and water infrastructure fails to keep pace with the deluge.

But with help from DWEJ, the Lesters have been able to make changes that help keep the water from seeping inside their home—as well as other homes in the neighborhood. “DWEJ came into the community and informed the people about the environment and what we can do to help protect ourselves,” says Lester.

The proposed solutions included rain gardens, bioswales designed to help carry runoff surface water, rain barrels, and downspouts. Lester says DWEJ helped them install these much-needed tools.

So far, it seems to be working. “The majority of times we don’t have any rain but when it does rain, we have an overflow,” says Lester. “That’s where the rain gardens, and bioswales are helping alleviate the water going down into the structure of the homes and the basements.”

With DWEJ’s help, the Lesters also formed a climate ambassadors group in their community. The ambassadors provide “information regarding climate change and what we can do to help with the backups, or how to contact the city and let them know what problems we’re having.”

Lester adds that DWEJ also helped him establish a youth climate ambassadors team, comprising five teenagers.

“We are continuing with educating the community in regards to the rain gardens and rain barrels. DWEJ came in and showed us how, and now we’ve learned how to do it ourselves and can show others.”

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