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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sewage Mixes with Water and Floods Homeowners Basement

It's not even the downpours anymore that flood the Greenfield home of Mike and Laura Vincent.

The couple said that even when there's just an inch or two of rain, it's likely that they'll get a mix of sewage and water in the basement of their home on Four Mile Run Road. It's happened several times over the past five years, leading to messy and expensive cleanups.

"We need help," Laura Vincent said, even as the region remains under a flood watch, with several inches of rain expected in the next couple of days.

Nearly 200 East End residents and business owners packed a meeting in Shadyside on Tuesday evening with Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and state officials. Representatives of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority listened quietly as, one by one, speakers told of cars floating down streets, several feet of water in homes and other water nightmares.

City Councilman Bill Peduto, who represents several of the neighborhoods with chronic flooding, said there wouldn't be any major solutions immediately offered, but city officials wanted to know where the problems were occurring, including Squirrel Hill, Shadyside and East Liberty.

"Obviously, there is something very wrong with that (drainage) system," Peduto said, adding that the city would continue to meet with residents.

The meeting took place in the wake of the Aug. 19 flash flooding on Washington Boulevard that killed four people in Highland Park. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the city is working on short-term and longer-term solutions.

The city has public safety officials on standby to close the road if it floods. Ravenstahl said the city is talking to PennDOT about installing gates to block traffic if needed, and also wants to study water drainage in that area.

Representatives from PWSA and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority said several inches of rain overwhelmed the drainage system, causing the flooding.

"This is a problem that will require our collective efforts to solve," Ravenstahl said.

Many longtime residents in the East End said that the flooding had only started within the last several years, and they blamed development in East Liberty and other areas with creating runoff, while others blamed the aging infrastructure.

"How would you like to be in that position," Shadyside resident Joyce Oesterling asked Ravenstahl. "How would you like your mother to be in that position?"

The South Negley Avenue resident also spoke of starting a class-action lawsuit.

Richard Rattner, owner of William Penn Tavern in Shadyside, and president of the neighborhood's Chamber of Commerce, said that businesses there have sustained millions in damage. He said newer homes and businesses are installing sump pumps that push flood waters into other structures.

"It's become a war of water, who can push the water harder," Rattner said.

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