Mount Prospect flood victims demand answers from village

When the storm hit on July 23, Mount Prospect resident Fran Zalewski went into a panic.

A few years ago, her basement flooded with sewage water, and when she saw water gathering in the street this summer, she knew it was happening again. Despite Zalewski's three sump pumps, sewage water flooded her basement and ruined everything in its path, she said.

More than 50 people came to Tuesday's village board meeting with similar horror stories. Many said they were upset with lack of response, lack of communication and lack of assistance; everyone wanted answers.

Village officials attributed the significant flooding to the sewer system being overwhelmed by the record-breaking rainfall. Trustee Steven Polit cited the Mount Prospect Historical Society and said the village was originally a marshy area and, while it isn't considered a floodplain, is prone to flooding.

Residents shared stories of “lackadaisical” public works crews who refused to help or even acknowledge residents. Mayor Irvana Wilks explained it is the village's policy for crews to work on public property only, but she recognized it might be something to talk about in the future.

Several residents also mentioned hearing about a rumored valve that, when opened, would allow more stormwater to drain.

Village Manager Michael Janonis denied the existence of any valve, but he said there is a deep tunnel managed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago that holds sewage water.

Janonis emphasized that the village has no access to opening the gates of the deep tunnel, and when they are opened, sewage water is drained into Lake Michigan.

Residents looked to the board for direction as to what to do next, and board members recommended residents call the public works department and report flooding so that the village can understand what areas have problems.

Wilks added that her own basement floods and said, for that reason, she chooses not to have carpeting or anything of importance in her basement.

“As a person who lives in Mount Prospect, basement flooding is a regular occurrence — it's just the way it is,” Wilks said.

For more than three hours, residents spoke about the problems they experienced. Stories varied from resident to resident, but everyone had the same message — something needs to be done.

Each trustee thanked residents for their input. Trustee John Korn said he would like the board will discuss several things brought up in the meeting, including assisting with the pumping of basements, waiving permits for repairing damage and potentially offering financial help to residents.

Officials said the board would have another meeting with residents to address flooding.