Will the City of Boston fix the flooding problem on our block?

By | October 30, 2017

To: Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo

Dear Councilor Ciommo,

A half hour ago — at 4:00am Monday morning — the roadway and sidewalk in front of my house were flooded with water a foot and a half deep. I know how deep it was because I was out wading in it, clearing leaves, trash, and other detritus off of the storm drains on both sides of the street so that the flood would subside.

Now, before you say, “Well, it was a big storm, so some flooding is expected,” ask yourself how many other of your constituents have emailed you today — or ever — about a problem like this. Rain by itself does not cause flooding like this. What causes flooding like this is a poorly graded street coupled with inadequate drainage.

The two halves of my block go downhill toward the middle of the block, which just happens to be right in front of my house. As a result, whenever we get rain, it all runs straight toward our house. Not only that, but our block also gets all the runoff from the large parking lot at the corner of our block.

When a storm happens in the fall or winter when there are a lot of leaves on the ground, they are swept up by the rain and propelled toward the two storm drains. Soon enough — and it can happen very quickly, during heavy rain — both drains are completely clogged by leaves, and the water level begins to rise.

In the 20 years my wife and I have been living here, I’ve had to clear the drains to keep the street from flooding more times than I can count. I’ve only ever seen anyone else do it one time, at least in part because half of the residents of the block are transient college students who aren’t here long enough to know that it needs to be done.

Most of the time, I have been able to prevent the street from flooding enough to cause damage. On at least two occasions, unfortunately, that was not the case. Several years ago, the street flooded so badly in the middle of the night that our minivan — parked on the street in front of our house — suffered several thousand dollars worth of water damage. And tonight, I didn’t notice the flooding until the water level was significantly higher than the undercarriage of at least two parked cars. I’m afraid their owners are going to awaken to some rather bad news in a few hours. It wasn’t even worse only because I happened to be awake and glance out the window and noticed the flooding.

This is unacceptable. Something needs to be done.

Perhaps part of the roadway can be regraded so that runoff from the bottom half of the block drains toward the end rather than the middle. Or perhaps more storm drains can be installed. I think at least four more — two sets of two each halfway between each end of the block and the middle — would be needed to adequately address the problem.

Presumably, the new storm drains would also get clogged with leaves, but three times as much drainage capacity should allow for enough of the runoff to end up in the drains before they are clogged and thereby prevent serious flooding. Residents of the street could then clear off the drains after the rain.

I hope you will look into this for me. Without your involvement, I’m sure it will be impossible for me to convince the city to do something about this problem.

Thank you,

Jonathan Kamens

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