By Alice E. Gerard
Christa Regal has lived on Love Road for eight years. In that period of time, she said her neighbors have been unable to enjoy their backyards because of persistent drainage issues and copious amounts of standing water. “I’m just thankful that I have a raised little concrete patio that I am able to sit on. If it weren’t for that little patio, I would have not been able to sit in the backyard at all.”
“This whole neighborhood of ours, our quaint, fun little neighborhood right near the water, is drowning,” Regal said.
Heavy rainfalls result in other problems, as well, including flooded basements and sewage backups, Regal said. “I know that the folks in my neighborhood next door to me and two doors down, three doors down, they have had basement issues. And when it does rain hard, even in front of the house, it gets overwhelmed. Last year, when we had that terrible rain, the stationary tubs all overflowed because the sewers backed up into our sinks, and the basement flooded that way. And yes, I was part of that flood. But that wasn’t my sump pump. That kept going. It was a sink all backed up, and sewage came out of the sink and was overflowing onto the floor all over the place.”
Because common issues with standing water affect 14 homes on the south side of Love Road, neighbors got together and agreed to bring their concerns about the “stagnant water that just sits and never goes away,” to the Grand Island Town Board’s March 21 meeting. “We organized it as a group. We got as many along this strip as were able to come. Some weren’t able to come because of work or some other obligations. But yeah; they all talked about it. We said that we were going to go and make our voices heard. And that’s what we did. If people start speaking up, something gets done,” Regal said. The group addressed the Town Board during the public comment period on issues not on the agenda.
“The mosquitoes are horrendous,” Regal said. “All of my neighbors have dogs. They let the dog out, and they come back caked in mud from their eyeballs all the way down. Then they’ve got to clean the dog. It’s been a nightmare for pet owners.”
She also mentioned a day, two weeks ago, when a neighbor’s son fell in the backyard. “This was the backyard, and he was literally underwater. They don’t have a swimming pool in their backyard. He bonked his head. He could have drowned in his own backyard. We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve had it up to here, especially after the near-drowning of my neighbor a couple of weeks ago.”
“Think of the mosquitoes that are going to grow there,” David Henderson said. “Think of the stench. I’ve lost $2,000 to $3,000 of landscape investment in my garden last year.”
James Sponn said, “My daughter has purchased fruit trees. She planted in the back. They were maturing, but we’re basically losing those fruit trees because of the constant water that was there. She spent a lot of effort. Digging in clay is not fun when you’re planting.”
Regal said, “We have ducks that swim in our yards all summer long. We can’t even mow. I can’t mow my lawn until the end of June. The neighbors come over with weed whackers. We have to, on foot, weed whack sections of the lawn, because we can’t even get the smallest lawnmower back there without it sinking 8 inches into the mud.”
According to Andrew Ovando, “We have pretty long backyards. Half of it is underwater, about 2 feet of water. It’s just slowly creeping up toward the houses. It’s not even going anywhere. I know that you said that you’re going to look into it. So, the water isn’t going anywhere, and it’s slowly accumulating. It’s just going to get worse. Spring is almost here, and the water is just going to keep creeping up, and it’s just going to go straight to our basements. There’s not much we can do besides have them clean the swales. Swales are full of junk and, over time, they get clogged. Somethings got to get done immediately.”
Several speakers at the Town Board meeting said they previously brought their concerns to employees in Town Hall, with unsatisfactory results.
Henderson said, “I’ve been on the Island for 40 years and paying taxes. People have been in my section since the 1940s, paying taxes. We pay your salaries. Why should I get disrespected? Why should I be ignored? Why should I be laughed at? Do you understand? So, I’m a little bit frustrated.”
James Sponn said, “I came to the town. I was expecting to get a response from the town in December. When I went there, I was like … I talked to those engineers down there. They were looking at the maps. They said they were coming out. I said, ‘OK, good.’ The next day, it all froze over, so there’s not much you can do now. I look at the backyard. The water didn’t go anywhere. I can put a boat back there. I would have expected something more from the town than what I got.”
Joan Sponn explained, “I, from December onward, kept sending emails and pictures and just letting them know what my backyard was like. I decided that my best idea is to do a whole pool or actually a pond because there’s nothing of a yard. It’s all water. I’ve sent emails, and I’ve gotten responses, saying they’ll come and look, but then I get a map of my yard. I’m in charge of it. It went from this person and it bounced to three different places. Our yard is a pond.”
Regal said, “The toads are in the water in the spring and summer. The ducks come and sit in our yard.”
At the meeting, a response came from Highway Superintendent Dick Crawford, as well as Town Board members.
“I’m very sorry, and I apologize on behalf of the town that nobody was spoken to correctly or directed to the right place when you came forward. That’s about as much as I can do there,” Councilman Christian Bahleda said. “I understand that you’re emotional, and rightfully so. I’ll be out tomorrow in my truck to come and look at the drain.”
Councilman Tom Digati said, “I apologize. We will look into it and do what we can.”
Councilman Mike Madigan said, “It sounds like we need to work on better communication, too, because our Highway Department does address the drainage issues islandwide, so it sounds like maybe we have some kind of disconnect. I apologize for that.”
Town Councilman Pete Marson, who was presiding over the meeting as deputy supervisor, as Supervisor John Whitney was excused from the meeting, said, “I did learn about the Love Road drainage problem last week. Not from here, but I was actually picking up a rototiller for repair. The gentleman told me that there’s been a water issue there. We have not had a meeting before today, so this is our first meeting. I am confident, as everyone else is, that Highway Superintendent Dick Crawford is on the job, and we will come to some sort of resolution for sure.”
Crawford explained he had just recently been made aware of the flooding issue. “I’m just letting you know that we know that there’s a problem down there. My crews were down there twice today. They were down there last Friday. So, we are going to start working on a solution. I don’t know what it is today. We have to look at the plans that are here in the town and what went on when it was first developed.”
Two days later, Crawford said much work had been done on dealing with the flooding issue and much work remained to be done. He described what he saw when he went to visit the neighborhood. “The backyards have a lot of sitting water in them. There’s a National Grid utility easement that runs along their backyards. There’s a lot of different types of pools and sheds and other obstructions that are throughout the backyards that are in the water. There was a lot of pooling water.
“The first thing that we did was we used our Vactor truck, and we jet rodded it, using high-pressure water, to try to flush the 6-inch line out from the back of Love Road down to LaSalle Avenue. So, we got about 150 feet of hose in there, and we hit an obstruction between the sidewalk and the street, which was preventing the water from fully draining out. Today (Wednesday), we went down there, and we dug that area out. There was a root ball and mud in the line. Once we dug that out with our mini excavator, the water came gushing out. It started to drain out. Initially, we hooked a pump up to it to keep up with the amount of water that was coming to get it out farther down the road to go to the storm sewer on LaSalle.”
A Vactor truck is a vacuum truck or a vacuum tanker that is used by municipalities to handle large-scale liquid and sludge cleanups, often in sewer and septic system maintenance.
“And now, we are going to, through gravity fed of the water, we’re going to see how much of those backyards drain out within the private drainage of the homeowners,” Crawford said. “That’s a key point. Within the private drainage of the homeowners. Backyard drainage is a private issue on homeowners’ property. So now, we will wait and see what occurs with freeing up that 6-inch line, and I imagine that it’s going to take us two to three days to see what happens and, if it starts to slow down, we will keep watching it, as we are monitoring it now, and I would say that we would then set a meeting up with the homeowners and discuss with them our findings, and we will have information on how we can collectively move forward.
“We’re going to let it drain out and then we will circle back, take a look at what has occurred and, in discussions with them and the town engineer’s office and the Highway Department, with the options that are available to try to make this situation better.”
Regal said she was grateful for the support Crawford was offering her and her neighbors: “Mr. Crawford, the highway superintendent, seemed genuinely concerned. It seems like he is going to look into our issue and really try to take care of our neighborhood. We really appreciate him taking care of us. He really did seem concerned, and we definitely want to give him a chance, and we appreciate that.”