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Not all flooding problems are created equal

Some locally will get help, but not 2008 storm victims

March 6, 2012

Greenfield - While Greenfield residents who watch water pour into their backyards from the parking lot of the Greendale water tower will get help from the city, others living near 35th Street and Cold Spring Road and whose were flooded in 2008 will not.

The difference is that the 2008 flooding happened all over the city as part of a 100-year storm. But the people around the Greendale water tower at about 57th Street and Upham Avenue have sopping yards all the time after a hard rain.

One house has suffered basement flooding for 20 years, with four feet of water in the basement in one instance.

Not made for 100-year storm

Greenfield's Board of Public Works reviewed how well the city's stormwater system worked or didn't work at 35th and Cold Spring in that 2008 storm and determined last week that the system did what it was designed to do.

In short, it wasn't designed to handle a severe storm that comes along only once in 100 years. Like the rest of the city, the stormwater system in that area is designed for a 10-year storm.

Cities can't design for a 100-year storm because it would be prohibitively expensive, Richard Sokol, director of neighborhood services, said after the meeting.

Frequently flooded

But the board did recommend giving a hand to the water tower neighbors.

Alderwoman Linda Lubotsky, who chairs the Board of Public Works, said those residents, especially the owner of the home that is hardest hit, have suffered a lot.

"Some have been through hell for 20 years," she said.

That includes, in particular, a man named Joe (who asked that his last name not be used in print).

Last year, Joe and his daughter stood in mud for more than four hours trying to keep water away from their house. Joe said he was afraid the tons of water gushing onto their yard from a broken water main at the water tower would buckle a wall of their home and cause it to collapse.

His recounting of their struggle to save their home was deeply touching, Lubotsky said. It even made the television evening news.

Joe has spent hundreds of dollars trying to reinforce his home to withstand the water that pushes against it and to fix one wall that actually bowed out. He also has done extensive work in the yard to direct water away from the house.

But every time it rains heavily, six inches of water stands in his side and back yards, he said. Added to that is the worry that Greendale will flush its water tanks by sending the water through two 10-inch pipes right onto his yard. That has happened twice in the 28 years he has lived in the home, he noted.

Water tower relief

The Common Council is expected to vote March 20 on spending $24,000 to help the water tower neighbors. Of the total, $15,000 would be for curbing to keep the water away from the yards. The remaining $9,000 would be used to put stormwater drains into the hardest-hit yard.

The money would come from the city's stormwater utility, a fund that everyone pays into quarterly with their sanitary sewer bills.

Greendale won't help with the cost, Sokol said, because the tower was there many years before the homes were.

Fortunately, Greenfield is catching a break, Lubotsky said - construction bids came in at half of what was expected.

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