Solutions proposed for Union Square flooding

On July 18, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Last year’s Kingman Rd. flooding provided a stark example of how serious the problem in the area has become.
– Photo by Harry Kane

By Harry Kane

Excessive flooding remains problematic for residents during rain storms in parts of Somerville, especially in Ward 2, according to Alderman Maryann Heuston, who addressed the issue at the July 11 Board of Alderman meeting. Specifically, Heuston noted three streets that continue to be affected most by the rainstorms: Dane Avenue, Clark Street and Kingman Road.

“These are longstanding flood areas in Ward 2, wreaking havoc on residents, some residents for 50 or 60 years,” Heuston said.

Essentially the excess storm water, which causes the flooding on these specified streets, derives from obstructed water mains, and a lack of storage facilities for the water to be held. Currently, wastewater is taken to the facility on Deer Island, said Rob King, director of engineering in the City of Somerville. Since there is no river or brook for the water to drain into, flooding is prevalent in low-lying Union Square streets.

In an effort to reduce the flooding, the City of Somerville has created the Flood Forum Committee to analyze the aging sewer systems and devise a plan to resolve the issue by possibly creating underground storage tanks to hold the water during extreme rain events. Two of these holding tanks might be similar to a tank placed under Beacon Street by Star Market some 10 years ago, King said.

Engineering experts are trying to identify locations to construct these holding tanks. Should this project be funded, two of the proposed locations for underground tanks might be at the Nunziato Field Dog Park on Summer Street and Lincoln Park by the Argenziano School.

“We could be looking at projects that cost between $5 to $10 million,” King said. Most likely, the City of Somerville would be responsible for the money needed to fund the project, but during the Flood Forum Committee meeting on July 10, the city engineer was directed to contact Congressman Capuano for federal aid, which might offset the cost of the project.  But, King said, it is “economically viable” for the city to take on projects like this.


~Photo by Harry Kane.

There are some short-term solutions that the City of Somerville has been actively pursuing, one of which is the instillation of backflow preventers. Homeowners may be responsible for purchasing these individual preventers, but city officials are exploring the possibility of discounting the devices, according to Alderman Heuston.

The city engineer, and Stan Koty, the director of public works commissioner, have been ordered to inspect the catch basins. “The Sewer department Vactor Truck removes the debris from catch basins,” Commissioner Koty said.

The City of Somerville has some long term visionary plans for Union Square that would spruce up the neighborhood with the coming of the Green Line T station, and with these streetscape improvements, underground utilities will also be improved in order to mitigate the wastewaters causing the flooding.

As of July 8, the city took preliminary steps to identify long-term solutions by selecting the Parsons Brinkerhoff consulting firm to conduct a study for Union Square improvements. The firm will manage the project, initially receiving a $700,000 contract for the 25 percent design study, part of a multi-pronged infrastructure plan that would also incorporate improvements for water mains in Union Square.

Meanwhile, the National Water Main Cleaning Company is actively conducting an inspection and cleaning of the combined sewer lines in low-lying areas of Union Square. “They’re going manhole to manhole,” Alderman Heuston said. Apparently the system is “structurally sound” but Heuston said that the capacity is being reduced by approximately 30 percent because of obstructions in the pipes.



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