More must be done to cor­rect flood­ing

The Norwalk Hour - - OPINION - By Mayor Harry Rilling Harry Rilling is mayor of Nor­walk.

Rain, rain go away, come again an­other day. Or, bet­ter yet, maybe a month or two from now. The coastal lo­ca­tion that makes Nor­walk one of the most beau­ti­ful cities in the coun­try also makes it one of the most prone to floods. De­pend­ing on the tide, even a mi­nor rain event can cause flood­ing in some ar­eas of the city. But re­cently, it has been some­thing more.

No doubt, we need a break from the un­prece­dented rain­fall that pounded our city and caused sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing is­sues and dam­age. In just one week, we had nearly 10.5 inches of rain as mon­i­tored by the Nor­walk Health De­part­ment Rain Gauge. To put that in con­text, the his­tor­i­cal rain to­tals in Nor­walk for Septem­ber are ap­prox­i­mately 4.5 inches and in Oc­to­ber roughly 3.9 inches, for a two-month av­er­age of 8.4 inches. Nor­walk ex­pe­ri­enced more rain in just one week than it usu­ally does over two full months.

An­other way we an­a­lyze how much wa­ter is go­ing through the city is look­ing to­ward the Waste­water Treat­ment Plant. Typ­i­cally, the plant han­dles 13 mil­lion gal­lons per day. How­ever, dur­ing re­cent storms, more than 100 mil­lion gal­lons flowed through the plant. A lot of wa­ter has fallen in short bursts, and our sys­tems can­not keep up. The fact that we had so many rain events grouped so closely to­gether meant there was no time for the ground to dry and ab­sorb the wa­ter, and drainage sys­tems were still pro­cess­ing pre­vi­ous storms. Sim­ply put, there is nowhere for the wa­ter to go.

The city’s in­fras­truc­ture dates back decades, and was built on in­dus­try stan­dards to with­stand a “10year storm.” That term is used to cat­e­go­rize rain­fall events and is cal­cu­lated by look­ing at inches of rain­fall per hour. For Nor­walk, a 10-year event is the equiv­a­lent of 1.8 inches of rain in 60 min­utes. Th­ese re­cent storms have dropped more than twice as much rain in sim­i­lar or shorter time frames, thus clas­si­fy­ing the events more like 100- or 200-year storms.

The city con­tin­ues to use tech­nol­ogy to in­spect lines with cam­eras to look for block­ages and clear de­bris that could be the cause of wa­ter back­ups or poor drainage. The city main­tains more than 12,000 catch basins, and hun­dreds of miles of pipes, so this re­mains a con­stant work in progress. Pipes run un­der city streets across pri­vate and pub­lic prop­erty, so it’s not as sim­ple as “rip it up and start over.” That said, any time we do a road re­pair, we en­sure the pro­ject in­cludes in­creas­ing the size of the pipes in the area to help im­prove the flow of wa­ter through the sys­tem.

How­ever, more must be done to cor­rect th­ese is­sues. That is why I am sub­mit­ting a spe­cial ap­pro­pri­a­tion re­quest of $1 mil­lion to help re­duce flood­ing in the city. We know based on his­tor­i­cal data that some ar­eas in Nor­walk need to be ad­dressed first, so that is where we will start.

A part­ner­ship be­tween res­i­dents and the city is the only way we will be able to ad­dress flood­ing promptly. We need the pub­lic’s help. I ask res­i­dents to please con­tinue to call Cus­tomer Ser­vice at 203854-3200 to re­port is­sues. Res­i­dents can also use the Cus­tomer Ser­vice smart­phone app (avail­able on iOS and An­droid) or on­line por­tal ( bit.ly/Nor­walkCAR ) to sub­mit a re­quest.

Th­ese prob­lems can­not be solved overnight, and I as­sure you that we take your feed­back se­ri­ously. We are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to proac­tively ad­dress the causes of flood­ing in our city.

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