Neighborhoods Become Flooded with Raw Sewage after Rains

It sounded like a manhole exploded and then, suddenly, backwater started gurgling from toilets. This is what happened to 30-year-old Jared Moffett during a downpour on July 10, 2012.

The raw sewage made its way up through the toilet and onto his black shag carpet. He recruited a friend to try and shovel out the water, but it was coming in too fast. Gallons upon gallons of pungent sewage water made its way into the home and there was nothing Moffett could do about it.

The heavy rain that came through Moffett’s neighborhood was nothing compared to the June 29th derecho that caused 3 million Americans and 7 Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states to come to a complete standstill for days or weeks, but it was the flash flooding that approached upward of 2 inches in some areas. Both LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale were heavily impacted, leaving a swath of damage that didn’t surprise some residents.

Approximately once each year, residents in these areas find themselves displaced from their homes, dishing out thousands of dollars for home repairs. This is due to a unique set of issues that the area has.

The first issue is the number of new homeowners that have flocked to the newly remodeled rowhouses in these neighborhoods. Below these newly remodeled homes is a sewage and piping system that is very old and strained. Add to this the fact these neighborhoods are the lowest lying in the area and you have a recipe for disaster.

When downpours like the July 10th downpour occurs, there is so much water at one time that the system cannot handle it. Nonetheless, city officials do have a number of initiatives to get the water-flow problems under control. These initiatives include everything from adding “green roofs” to control rainwater runoff to adding more trees. The most expensive option is to upgrade the city’s entire underground plumbing system.

These are all changes that cannot come soon enough for many of the residents. Unfortunately, measures that some have taken to reduce damage to their belongings, such as placing couches on risers, does not help the damage that is done to carpets, flooring, and walls. Even sandbagging cannot be carried out fast enough in many cases. This means solutions must be agreed upon quickly by officials or residents will continue to find themselves out of thousands of dollars every year.