Monday’s Peru town hall meeting and complaints about sewer backups and basement flooding reflected identical conditions that brought similar complaints in the summer and fall of 2008: torrential rainfall followed by flash flooding and a record crest on the Illinois River.
Mayor Scott Harl and the council remembered the deluge of complaints that came to the council under Mayor Don Baker in 2008. Harl and the council came prepared with a fact sheet and list of responses the city made since last week’s rain.
Even so they withstood cursing. Dick Ladzinski, after criticizing the city’s sewer management, said he wanted “more action and less bull——” and the audience applauded him. Some accused the city of under-sizing sewers and ignoring residents’ problems in favor of businesses. Others alleged engineering firm, Chamlin, is inept and the city is unaware it has a sewer capacity problem.
Several people complained of standing water in basements and thousands of dollars in damage. Harl emphasized the extreme nature of the storm and flooding.
“When was the last time anyone can remember that in a 30-mile radius the only way across the Illinois River was Interstate 39?” Harl said.
Some said their home values are dropping and they would like to move but might have trouble selling. Scot Smigel on Debo Drive said after 2008, the city told him his troubles were fixed. On Sunset Drive, Kim McKee said this is the second time her basement has flooded. She carries flood insurance but it won’t pay for sewer backups, she said.
Dan Ferrari, who criticized the city sewer flooding in 2008, was back this time saying sewers to the north of the Marquette Road area were taking in floodwater and filling up.
All this played out in 2008, when Peru and other nearby cities were pounded with two rainstorms that caused basements to flood. The first came July 12 with 3-4 inches. The second came Sept. 12-14 with 2.5 inches to 10 inches in La Salle County, which led to a record Illinois River crest of 33.79 inches Sept. 16, 2008.
This year’s deluge of 3 to 8 inches of rain last week brought complaints of basement flooding in Princeton, Mendota, Oglesby, Henry, Granville, Utica, Magnolia, Granville, DePue, Monmouth, Algonquin, Chicago, Wyoming, Kewanee, Elmhurst, Quincy, Grafton, Aurora, Spring Bay, Highland Park, Roanoke, London Mills, Evanston, Warrenville, Lisle, Des Plaines, Barstow and Peoria, according to news reports.
Since Thursday Peru Public works fielded 61-65 calls and tried addressing each one, said Superintendent Gary Bleck. Complaints were concentrated from Ninth and Peoria streets, north to Sunset Drive and northeast to 28th Street. Crews had already checked some sewers earlier this month and found no problems, Bleck said. At the meeting, complaints and addresses were recorded. Bleck said he will step up a ward-by-ward checking of sewers begun in 2009.
Since 2008 the city has spent more than $11 million on flood and sewer related improvements and the cost prohibits addressing all sewers at once, Harl said. Modern projects adhere to federal regulations for capacity, he said.
“How much money do you think we have to pour into it at one time?” Harl said.
The basement flooding was caused by storm water getting into sewer lines and backing up into basements. Some of this infiltration has been addressed with new sewer lines, such as along east May Road, Harl said.
But some homes have water storm collection and downspouts feeding water into sewage pipes, Bleck said.
“There’s no easy answer without a lot of expense to the homeowner,” Bleck said.
Some residents resisted inspections in 2008. Bleck pleaded with residents to let officials check sewers and pipes.
Some residents said they installed backup valves since 2008 and those lessened flooding this time. On Sunset Drive, runoff washed trash into yards and storm sewer grates, said resident Don Walker.
“Everybody go out and look at the sewers in front of your homes,” he said. He asked the city to enforce litter laws.
Harl encouraged residents to fill out and send in federal PTAX-245 forms for individual disaster cost reimbursement. Photos of damage are helpful, he said.
Spring Valley city workers continued pumping out the flooded sewage plant after reducing the water level one foot Monday.
Monday morning, workers cleared a path from the railroad tracks to the northwest corner of the treatment plant and placed two city pumps to drain water from the plant to the ditch above the lagoon. The city also received a larger pump from St. Louis at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
“It’s been a big help,” said Mayor Cliff Banks.
The pumps ran overnight but the big pump got clogged and stopped working, Banks said. City superintendent John Schultz said workers were trying to fix it. Schultz said the water level at the plant dropped about a foot. Banks said water is still seeping in and there is a large amount of water covering the plant.
“It will take five to six days if we keep the pumps running,” Banks said about removing water.
Schultz and Banks said the small amount of rain forecasted for today will not slow down progress. The city will hold a water and sewer meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30. Schultz hopes to have information about plant damages and repair costs at the meeting.
Henry-Senachwine School District, which canceled school Monday, announced it would have school Tuesday.
“We do know the river had crested,” said Jim Lykins, director of Henry Emergency Services and Disaster Agency. Lykins said rain is in this week’s forecast.
Two or three houses by the riverfront were flooded, he said.
“Luckily, we don’t have a lot of houses in the flood plain,” he said.
The flooding caused other problems as well. Two gas tanks at the Henry marina broke loose but were retrieved, Lykins said.
In Utica, students will be returning to Waltham South School (the former Utica Grade School) on Wednesday morning now that Utica’s sewage plant is up and running again.
Waltham superintendent Bob Abney said south students were bused to Waltham North on Monday and Tuesday while the Utica school was effectively shuttered by the village’s infrastructure issues.
The crowding up north wasn’t ideal, but the arrangement did keep the district from burning additional emergency days. Abney said the flood required a single emergency day — a total of two to date — and the projected last day of class is now June 4.
The city of Ottawa is attempting to get Federal Emergency Management Agency to qualify Ottawa for federal flood relief. To qualify, the city must establish the extent of damage to homes and businesses. The city needs to know if residents suffered flooding inside homes and whether it was ground-level, basement or crawl space.
Any resident experiencing flood damage is urged to call city hall at (815) 433-0161, Ext. 0. If calling after 4:30 p.m. leave a name and phone number. The city will ask for name, phone number, address, type of structure (single-family home, apartment building), owner-occupied or rental, depth of water, insurance (homeowners, renter or flood), and structural damage.
A limited number of Salvation Army flood cleanup kits still are available at city hall.
The American Red Cross will distribute flood cleanup kits 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the Village Clerks Office, 111 W. Second St.
All streets were open as of 5:30 p.m. Monday and evacuated residents began returning to their homes. The city advises residents to be alert for gas odor or electrical hazards upon re-entry.
Flood garbage clean up will be 8 a.m.-1 p.m. today through Friday, when the city will collect garbage from the curb during that time. There also will be a dumpster on Broadway Street from 1-5 p.m. today through Friday.
La Salle County Damage Assessment Team will be in Marseilles today. Residents with structural damage are advised to follow instructions taped to their doors. If no instructions are found, residents should contact the fire department at (815) 795-5535.
People can donate to flood relief efforts at Marseilles Bank. Make checks out to the City of Marseilles.
First Congregational Church is operating as a food pantry.
Shoes, clothes and bedding can be donated or picked up by those in need at the Church of the Nazarene 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday. Donations must be clean.
The Lions Club will accept donations of cleaning supplies, hygiene products and pet supplies. Items may be dropped off and picked up 9 a.m.-noon and 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
The American Red Cross and Salvation Army are providing mobile food units.
Anyone with safety concerns can contact Illinois Power, (800) 755-5000; Marseilles Police, (815) 795-2131; Marseilles Fire Department, (815) 795-5535; Marseilles Ambulance, (815) 795-4902; and La Salle County Health Department, (815) 433-3366.
Barges that broke loose last week on the Illinois River damaged three gates and anchorage systems at the Marseilles Lock and Dam, according to U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers inspectors. Strong river currents redirected barges toward the dam and three of seven barges sunk.
The damage won’t cause additional flood risk downstream (Illinois River locks and dams are designed to provide adequate depth for commercial navigation, not to control flooding. A drop in water between Marseilles and Dresden Island locks and dams could impact navigation, according to The Associated Press.
Route 251 bridge in Peru has been reopened but the Route 351 bridge in La Salle and Route 89 bridge in Spring Valley remained closed this morning.
The Route 18 bridge in Henry is closed.
The Sandy Ford Bridge over the Vermilion River on County Highway 5 near Leonore will be closed until 1 p.m. today for inspection and cleanup.