Streets in the Hughes Heights neighborhood in northeast Columbus have flooded, as can be seen from this photo from 2019, resident Tamara Erby said. The water almost rose to the same level on the street this year, Tamara's mother Mary Erby said. Photo by: Courtesy photo/Janie Brandon
February 19, 2020 10:09:03 AM
Since she moved to her home near the end of 22nd Street North, Columbus in 1977, Mary Erby has always had a problem with her drainage whenever there's heavy rainfall.
In recent years, she said, it's getting worse.
Water from different directions runs through the ditches in her neighborhood toward the end of the street, flooding her backyard and sometimes her neighbor's patio, she said.
"It rains so hard and so fast it can't go out (from the dead end)," Erby said. "You wouldn't even believe it's a street out there. ... It's like a river."
Erby addressed the street flooding in her neighborhood before the city council Tuesday evening. She has contacted city officials in the past two years, she said. Mayor Robert Smith, City Engineer Kevin Stafford and Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong all came by the neighborhood to examine the situation, she said, but nothing was done to solve the problem.
"They are not doing anything to help us," Erby told The Dispatch. "All they do is ... they clean out this little dirt ditch periodically, and that's it."
Smith said heavy rainfall prevented the city's crew from cleaning out the ditches in recent weeks. In the past, he said, the city had suggested building a detention pond behind Columbus Brick Company, a property then owned by former company president Al Puckett off Military Road. A detention pond diverts water by letting it slowly drain out between storms.
A detention pond would have helped with the situation, Smith said. Puckett had agreed to work with the city, he said, but changed his mind after learning that the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality might have to conduct an environmental study before that.
"He didn't know what MDEQ might find from an environmental standpoint there, because it used to be a junkyard," Smith said.
The city purchased the drainage easement around the brick company weeks ago, Smith said, and should now have the authority to make improvements there.
Stafford said the city also tried to negotiate with the pastor at Genesis Church, on 23rd Street North, to reroute the water behind the church, but that plan was rejected.
Dorothy McClung Lewis, who lives on North 27th Street North, had the same issue with Erby. Toilets would not flush, she said, and water would not go down the drain.
Todd Gale, director of Columbus Light and Water, said his staff has identified 100 breaks in the drainage pipelines within the area. Seven of them were major breaks, he said, and 90 of them were located on private properties. The CLW will work with the city and residents to seal the breaks up, he said.
McClung Lewis suggested several possible solutions at Tuesday's meeting, including enlarging the pipes, replacing the dirt drainage ditch in the neighborhood with a concrete one, recruiting volunteers or hiring workers to help clean the ditches and applying for grants.
Smith said the city will work with the residents on coming up with solutions, but he couldn't make promises to give the residents "false hope." Flooding is prevalent across the city, he said, and little can be done when there is four or five inches of rainfall.
McClung Lewis said she hopes the city comes up with viable solutions to address the long-standing problem.
"We can complain about situations and we can say, 'Wait till the rain to stop,'" Lewis said. "But if you don't offer any solutions, you are still part of the problem."
Yue Stella Yu is the local government reporter for The Dispatch. Reach her at 662-328-2424 (ext 106) or follow her on Twitter @StellaYu_Mizzou
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