Just a month after pledging an additional $100,000 to assist residents who want to install flood-control systems on their properties, the Brookfield Village Board in late August OK’d earmarking another $200,000 for that purpose.
When all is said and done in 2014, said Village Manager Riccardo Ginex, the village expects to provide $400,000 to residents for the installation of overhead sewers and backflow prevention valves at their homes.
Two huge rain events in August prompted the additional money to be set aside for the village’s flood mitigation program, which the Brookfield village board created in 2013 after widespread flooding.
The program reimburses 50 percent, up to $5,000, for installing overhead sewers; 50 percent, up to $4,000, for installing a backflow prevention valve with a pump; and 50 percent, up to $3,000, for installing a backflow prevention valve.
In 2013, the village planned to set aside $100,000 annually for the program. After heavy rains in July, the village board agreed to double that amount.
By the end of July, Brookfield had sent out program packets to all but 35 or 40 homeowners who had expressed interest in participating.
According to Brookfield resident Allen Goodcase, who has a sophisticated weather station at his home, south Brookfield received record rainfall in June and August, according to data he has collected since November 1992, when his weather station went operational.
On June 24, 2.17 inches of rain fell on the area within a span of 25 minutes and on June 30 the area was socked with another 3.16 inches within a 24-hour period, said Goodcase. In all, 13.16 inches of rain fell at Goodcase’s weather station in June. The average rainfall total for the month since 1992 has been 4.53 inches.
Then, in August, Brookfield was swamped again, twice.
On Aug. 4-5, according to Goodcase, his part of Brookfield received 4.83 inches of rain within a 7.5-hour period. And on Aug. 21-22 a total of 5.78 inches fell within 24 hours. The rainfall total for August 2014 was 12.42 inches, said Goodcase, versus a monthly average of 5.37 since 1992.
The most recent rains caused the kind of flooding that has become routine in 2014 — some streets become temporarily unpassable and the combined sewer system, which was not built to handle such heavy rains, surcharges. That leads to sanitary waste flooding basements through flood drains.
Flood-control measures such as backflow prevention valves and overhead sewers can mitigate that type of flooding.
Fed-up residents have been particularly angry on social media, complaining that the sewer system is either broken or inadequate. Some appeared at the Aug. 25 village board meeting to get answers from officials.
“It is emotionally exhausting; it is physically exhausting,” said resident Alana Waters-Piper.
Village President Kit Ketchmark stated that the flooding problem wasn’t Brookfield-centric, and laid out steps the village has taken to help prevent residential flooding and others steps that are in the works.
As for calls to increase the capacity of the sewer system — which largely was installed more than a half century ago — to handle larger rain events, Ketchmark warned the cost would be astronomical.
“It is estimated that to replace our combined sewers with separate storm sewers to be between 50 and 75 million dollars, plus the cost of street improvements on top of the sewers,” said Ketchmark.
Residents near areas whose streets consistently flood, like the intersection of Monroe and Harrison avenues, wondered if the sewers there were either clogged with debris or collapsed.
“Any time it rains, it’s under water,” said resident Brad Novak.
The village is investigating residents’ suggestions that the sewers be televised in order to pinpoint problem areas. The last time the village televised its sewer system comprehensively was in 2000, when it cost $750,000. Officials estimate it would cost more than $1 million to do so now.
On Monday, the Brookfield Village Board gave the OK for the village manager to seek bids for televising the sewers in two particularly flood-prone areas, near Monroe and Harrison (between 31st Street, Washington Avenue, Kemman Avenue and Grand Boulevard) and in South Hollywood. That work alone is expected to cost the village $84,000.
Ketchmark insisted that the village was proactively addressing flooding by creating the flood mitigation program, applying for a grant that would bring a pump station to the intersection of Forest and Washington avenues, by passing a downspout disconnection ordinance and by reviewing building codes to limit the amount of impermeable surface on residential lots.
But he said that the village can’t prevent flooding completely.
“While we have tried to be proactive in many areas regarding flooding, we cannot solve all of the problems,” Ketchmark said. “There are certain things we as a village can do; there are certain things individual residents can do.”