Upgrading the City’s Sewage System


City of Detroit, Detroit Water and Sewerage


The Upper Rouge Tunnel Combined Sewage Overflow Project is a government mandated $500 million dollar, seven-mile sewage tunnel that is 30 feet in diameter being built 160 feet beneath the ground on Detroit’s west side. The tunnel will make great strides in improving the area’s environmental quality, but it could also be a source of contention for consumers because of possible tax increases, higher water bills and construction disruptions. Berg Muirhead was tasked with proactively informing Detroit’s civic, residential and business community and offering comprehensive information that would educate the target audiences and alleviate confusion and/or controversy.


Berg Muirhead met its objectives by sufficiently informing and comforting the audience, which resulted with a minimum negative response towards the project. Out of the 12,500 direct mail pieces that were distributed, only 90 response cards were returned and approximately 10 people called the hotline number. The public forum was attended by only 31 people. These numbers communicated that the target audiences were adequately informed by the direct mail piece. The strategy also forged support and partnerships between the project team and the community.  Although the strategy was successful, for other reasons the project was cancelled and the tunnel was not built. 


Berg Muirhead deployed an informative direct mail piece that included comprehensive explanations, diagrams and maps, a frequent asked questions section, and a response card and hotline number. The direct mail piece was written at a level all residents could understand. It answered the expected questions from the community and highlighted the positive aspects of the project. Additionally, Berg Muirhead met with city officials, community influencers, and major businesses during the campaign. The team also held a public forum where anyone could attend and speak with the “project experts.”