June 25 2013 12:00 AM

Citizens concerned about flooding, administration responds


Tuesday, June 26 — At Monday’s Lansing City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, nine residents spoke out about problems they’ve had with flooding — and they believe the city is to blame. 

Linda Fruk, who lives at 3413 Burchfield Drive near Holmes Road and South Washington Avenue, said her home has flooded several times over the past three years, including on June 13, when the city experienced massive rain. On her block, she said, manhole covers blow out of place when there’s a lot of rain and two years ago, her basement wall collapsed due to flooding.

“This is ongoing,” she said. “We fear for our home, we fear for our lives. It needs to be taken care of and dealt with.”

Fruk said when she has tried to get answers from the city, she’s been “bounced around” between people and departments.

Lansing Public Service Director Chad Gamble and Dean Johnson, the city’s engineer, were on hand to discuss flooding issues in Lansing; why they happen; what residents can do to prevent basement floods; and what the city is doing to help.

“We know this is one of the worst things that can happen to people,” Gamble said. He said after the June 13 rainstorm, the city received about 100 complaints for basement floods. Some areas of the city received as much as four inches of rain in four hours. 

“The rain event was greater than what the sewers were designed for,” Johnson said. “Our Wet Weather Program is in progress and it will provide relief up to a 25-year storm event.”

The city’s Wet Weather Program is designed to increase sewer capacity by separating sanitary sewers and storm water sewers. He said the city’s system can handle a 10-year storm event.

Johnson said the large amount of rain on June 13 was a 100-year storm event, meaning that type of storm can be expected every 100 years. He said the city’s sewer system simply isn’t designed to handle that capacity of water.

Johnson said residents can file a claim for reimbursement for damages, but that they would have to prove the city knew there was a problem and that the city failed to fix it.

The city’s Wet Weather Program also includes a Basement Backup Prevention Program, which is being piloted with 40 homes. The city identified houses with chronic flooding issues and has been disconnecting footing drains from the public sewers and installing backflow preventers to help reduce the risk of basement flooding from the city’s sewer system. That program will likely continue after the pilot, Gamble said.

Johnson said basements can flood for several reasons, and it’s not always because of sewer overflow. There can be groundwater seepage through a home’s foundation, surface runoff can enter through openings in the house, sanitary sewers can backup and there can be surcharges from the public sewer during large storm events.

Homeowners can do several things to help prevent basement flooding, like waterproof basement floors and walls or install a backflow preventer, Johnson said. For more information on how to prevent basement flooding click here.

But flooding will always be a problem to some extent, Johnson said.

“You cannot design a system that can handle every conceivable storm event,” He said. “It’s not practical, it’s not fundable. There is no cure all that will fix each and every storm event.”