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Wellsville residents, city council, at odds over flooding

April 9th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Noelle Johansen

WELLSVILLE — An extra 2.4 million gallons of water and sewage is being pumped into the sewage lagoons north of Wellsville, and a solution for the massive inflow of water is being sought by the City Council.

“Extra water is not helping the Poo-Gloos run correctly,” Councilman Gary Bates said in a meeting Wednesday. Poo-Gloos are sewage treatment devices in the lagoons.

Over the course of three days last December, at least 17 basements of the 42 homes in a Wellsville subdivision flooded due to an abundance of rain and snowfall. Some residents, like Paula Thatcher, were so desperate to get rid of the water in their basements that they pumped it directly into the sewer.

“We know what we’re doing is not legal,” Thatcher said in the meeting. “It was such a horrible mess.”

It happened “when everybody got flooded in the county,” Thatcher said in an interview Friday. Thatcher said she and other homeowners felt they were being blamed for the influx of water.

“We’re not trying to point blame,” Councilman Carl Leatham said. “We’re looking for solutions.”

Thatcher and her husband were in Salt Lake City when their basement flooded. Their neighbors alerted them to the flooding. On their way back to Wellsville, the Thatchers bought a sump pump to install in their basement to remove the water and prevent future flooding. “We were on ours fast enough, we didn’t get any damage,” Thatcher said.

However, their neighbors, the Ewings, were not so lucky.

“We had two to three inches of water in our basement,” Don Ewing, a veteran service officer, said in an interview. He said this was the first time his basement flooded. “We found out later (the council) had recommended to the developer not to put basements in here. Well, obviously we have a basement.”

Ewing said he spent over $25,000 repairing the flood damages to his basement. “I worked long and hard for this money,” he said. “I’d much rather spend it on my grandchildren and toys like boats and fishing rods.”

Ewing called said it was unrealistic and ridiculous to trace the source of the increase in water back to his subdivision.

“I’m a mathematician, among other things,” Ewing said. “It would be physically impossible for us to pump in that amount of water.

“There’s still water coming in. Not to us, but to neighbors.”

In mid-March, Wellsville city conducted a sewer search in attempts to discover the source of the excess water.

“We were looking for infiltration,” sewer superintendant Tom Maughan said in the meeting. “We found a crack in one line.” Maughan said there was some extra water coming from some of the homes. He said with city money and participation, sump pumps in the basements of the subdivision homes will help solve the problem.

Maughan also said in future sewer tests, residents would be given a couple of weeks’ notice, as Thatcher said she was frustrated with the lack of communication last time.

“We felt like we were being spied upon,” Thatcher told the council. She said Friday that water is coming in from somewhere else.

“Communication is key,” Mayor Thomas Bailey said in the meeting. “You’ve got to talk to solve problems.”

Leatham said basement flooding is common during this season. “This isn’t just a Wellsville issue, this is a valley-wide issue.”


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