It’s unlikely that any Elmhurst resident thinks there is an easy and cheap solution to chronic flooding problems. But the need to make hard choices—and spend big bucks—to solve issues was soberly emphasized Monday as two flooding-related subcommittees presented reports to the City Council.
Massive floods causing millions in damage in 2010 prompted the creation of four resident working groups to study various parts of the city’s water system and recommend ways to combat flooding. Consultant Christopher Burke Engineering was hired to gather detailed data on the sewer and storm systems. After Burke issued its findings, the resident groups worked to come up with plans to present to aldermen.
Monday night, Jim Filippini gave an overview of the sanitary committee’s work, saying their ultimate goal is to eventually eliminate sewage backups into basements by reducing rainwater infiltration into sewers.
The committee is calling for increasing runoff storage capacity at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and at the Saylor and Jackson Street lift station. In addition, the committee wants the city to require any homeowner whose home still drains into the sanitary system to completely disconnect from city lines before he or she can sell their property.
However, the committee also recommended that the city incentivize disconnections through cost-sharing plans. The committee wants the city to pay all costs, up to $10,000, associated with installing overhead sewers in homes with the worst flooding problems as well as reimburse homeowers in the most flood-prone areas who have taken steps to decrease flooding since 2010.
The city’s current overhead sewer program offers to pay 50 percent of the costs of the project up to $5,000.
Jackie Fisher of the stormwater committee said her group wants the city to focus on the areas that flood repeatedly, including most of southwest Elmhurst as well as the Pine Street area, estimating that it will take $23 million to increase protection from most storms for almost 300 of the most affected homeowners.
“The most pressing issue is when water comes up and over foundations,” Fisher said.
Fisher also urged aldermen to begin serious exploration of how much the city might have to pay to buy property to ensure adequate land for runoff storage. She also noted that officials needed to ask residents if they were willing to give up or alter the use of public lands to have more green space that can hold water in the event of a severe storm.
The stormwater committee began their work by evaluating data collected by Christopher Burke. Fisher noted that they found the data detailed by the consultant and the cost estimates for proposed projects to be reasonable. They would, however, have liked to have seen more innovative solutions from Burke, Fisher said.