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updated: 9/8/2011 4:40 PM

Arlington hts. neighborhoods beg for flood help

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  • Rain water flooded the street along South Phelps Avenue in Arlington Heights on July 23.

    Rain water flooded the street along South Phelps Avenue in Arlington Heights on July 23.

  • Rain water flooded the street along South Phelps Avenue in Arlington Heights on July 23.

    Rain water flooded the street along South Phelps Avenue in Arlington Heights on July 23.

  • 2011 storm incidents map

    Graphic: 2011 storm incidents map (click image to open)

  • Flooding Density Map

    Graphic: Flooding Density Map (click image to open)


For the third consecutive meeting of the Arlington Heights Village Board, residents said the village should work to prevent flooding in their neighborhoods.

Residents of Westgate, west of downtown, have been coming to board meetings since the record July 23 rainfall of almost 7 inches in just over three hours. Residents of Northgate on the north side joined them Tuesday night. About eight people spoke.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has decided Cook County does not qualify to be declared a disaster area, said Village Manager Bill Dixon.

So far, 515 people have reported water in their yards or basements because of the storm, said Scott Shirley, director of public works. He will collect calls for one more week before finalizing maps that show where problems are.

Homes between Palatine and Central roads were more susceptible to sewage in their basements because they are tied into a joint sanitary-stormwater system, said Shirley. Outside of that area some homes received water, but most residents reported it in streets and rear yards.

Natural low spots receive water, said Shirley, but no blockages in the sewer system have been found.

Trustees were offended when residents said they did not seem to care.

Dan Lindstrom, of the 400 block of South Highland near South Middle School, said the village should have a meeting just for residents to talk about flooding because some people have not heard about how they should report their problems to the village.

"The system with mixed sewage and stormwater is wrong, it's not moral," he added. "You all know the right thing to do is separate sanitary and stormwater," he said.

There will be health repercussions because people who did not have insurance cannot afford to have their homes cleaned, said Lindstrom, who also suggested the village pay to install overhead sewers for anybody who wants them.

Village officials have said that installing overhead sewers -- systems that pump waste from the basement to a higher level -- are required in new construction and would keep sewage from basements in 90 percent of the homes.

The village will pay half the costs up to $5,000 for owners of older homes who want to install them, but only 17 people have taken advantage of this program in four years.

Dr. Roger Nissen, who lives on East Burr Oak Drive in Northgate, said he had 5 feet of water in his basement, and one car floated over to a neighbor's yard.

Perhaps the sewer grates are not big enough because the street floods frequently, he said.

Marc Adelman, who organized Westgate residents to attend board meetings, said one of the frustrations is the board rule that limits residents to three minutes when they talk before the board.

He said some of his neighbors believe the board does not care.

Other areas are getting new sewers, said Adelman, so why can't Westgate?

Tom Hayes, filling in for Village President Arlene Mulder, said trustees have experienced flooding, too, and "no matter how much money we spend it will not guarantee your home will not flood again."

The first step is understanding the problem, he said, and it is villagewide, not just in a few neighborhoods.

Trustee Carol Blackwood said she lives in Northgate and had water in her home.

"If I would have had water and sewage it would have been devastating. There are health issues," she said. "We really need to take a look at what would be the real cost of separating the sewers."

Dixon said separating the sanitary sewer for the half of the town that is affected would be cost prohibitive and cause too much upheaval in the streets. He said he did not want to give residents false hope.

Trustee Joseph Farwell said the various reasons for flooding need to be studied and triaged, with sewer backup going to the top of the list.

"It's an incredible health hazard." He suggested messages about flood prevention be sent to residents' phones or emails similar to the Crime Stopper alerts that people sign up for.

Trustee Bert Rosenberg said a protocol should be set up for when the Northwest Central Dispatch 911 system is overloaded, as it was on July 23.

Dixon said the message is that residents who have a serious emergency should call the police nonemergency number, but he suspects that was overloaded, too.

"People complain about the cost of government and the number of municipal employees, but when something like this happens there are not enough," said Dixon. "Do you build a church for Easter Sunday? You can be smart with what you do."

Rosenberg said residents need clear instructions on changes they can make to improve their property and reduce flooding.

Village officials also need to understand how the Deep Tunnel system of removing waste and stormwater works, he added.