Fairview Heights residents demand action after recent flash flooding

News-DemocratJuly 3, 2014 

Flooding in the Fox Creek subdivision in Fairview Heights in June,

DERIK HOLTMANN

Antionette Johnson said reoccurring flash flooding is hurting her Fairview Heights home.

The latest storm left her yard and the street in front of her house under water on June 20. It was the fourth time since she and her husband had moved to their home on Northwestern Avenue about 18 months ago that their property has been flooded after heavy rainfall.

But she is finding out that this is not unusual.

"This is the norm," Johnson said. "A lot of my neighbors say this has been going on for the last 10 years."

The street in front of Johnson's house dips. The area has come to be know as the "Northwestern sag."

Johnson said she and her husband have found mold in their home and are having to remove the carpeting and walls because of it. She is also concerned that the heavy flooding is shifting her home's foundation.

"We have been living like this for a whole year and a half," she said. "We have another issue with the seller because they didn't disclose this and the city isn't doing anything to fix it. This water is coming through our back yard and it's shifting the foundation."

Johnson and some of her neighbors addressed the Fairview Heights City Council Tuesday night and then again before the city's Public Works Committee on Wednesday night. Both times, Johnson and others living in the Fox Creek neighborhood demanded action for a problem that has not been solved.

Mark and Joann Denzer, who live down the street, lost their $125,000 RV when water flooded onto the street, ruined the vehicle and lifted it off the ground.

Johnson's husband captured it on video, which reveals water surrounding the Denzers' 11,000-pound RV in the flooded street as the windshield wipers moved back and forth.

Neighbor Rudolph Jones Jr. said he will never forget it. "I watched it," Jones said. "I couldn't believe it."

Jones has lived on Northwestern Avenue for 14 years and lost a car to a flash flood about five years ago, he said. He addressed the City Council about it Tuesday night.

"I lost my car, but I didn't complain," Jones said. "I just want to know what you're going to do about it?

Ward 3 Alderman and Public Works Committee Chair Scott Greenwald said the city is not ignoring the problem, but could not offer any solutions.

"We're not going to come up with a fix this evening," Greenwald said.

He also said Public Works Director Chris Volkman has been working on solutions. Volkman said flash flooding has been an issue in the neighborhood for years. He said the Public Works Department has discussed cleaning out drainage ditches to help increase the flow of storm water. He also said that the city may have to look at large and more expensive solutions.

"It really only floods when we get high intensity rains," Volkman said. "If you get, say, 3 inches over three or four hours, it will never flood. If you get 3 inches in one hour ... it will flood."

At Wednesday night's meeting, Joann Denzer accused the city of being negligent and ignoring the problem for the last several years.

"It's on your shoulders and it's your responsibility and it's your fault," Denzer said. "It's getting worse and it's not getting better."

A few blocks from Northwestern Avenue, on Villanova Court, the recent flood left standing water in Shawn Hearn's backyard. For the first time, the water reached his above-ground pool. He said his and his neighbors' properties were poorly developed and do not allow for proper storm water drainage.

"It's an insufficient system to handle that amount of water," Hearn said.

Hearn told the Public Works Committee that flooding has been a problem there since he moved in nine years ago. He said the last flood was the worst.

"I've been coming to these meetings and complaining and complaining and complaining," Hearn said. "I think if they do something, it won't be enough."

Ward 5 Alderwoman Denise Williams, who lives in the subdivision and has been representing her neighbors for the past year on the City Council, she said she is trying to form an association to help resolve the issue.

"I'm working and I'm trying my best because we need answers," Williams said.

Johnson said she and her husband would not have bought the house if they knew about the frequent flash floods.

"I'm just trying to figure out why this was not identified," she said.

Greenwald told the residents that the city is going to try to fix the problem.

"I don't believe the city is going to close the door on this," Greenwald said. "This is a serious issue."

"We're going to get to work on this."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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