Flooding: 100-Year Pump v. 10-Year Pail?


Flooding – and the effect it has on private property values and on the City treasury – is the most significant problem Park Ridge faces.  Even people who can put up with air plane noise are far less tolerant of several inches to several feet of fetid water appearing all too regularly in their basements.

So we direct your attention to an article in this week’s Park Ridge Journal about the flooding problem and its remediation (“Flood Fixes Under Review,” September 25).  And a big Watchdog bark-out goes the Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) for making – at the City Council’s September 9 Committee of the Whole meeting – essential points about the inadequacy of the “10-year flood” remediation with which the City is currently fiddling.

As reported in the Journal article, back in May 2012, the Council approved spending over $800,000 from the City’s sewer fund on a flooding feasibility study by the City’s newest BFF consultant, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd.  But as we understand it, the focus of this feasibility study is a plan to improve the sewer system to better hand 10-year floods.

Resident Bill Montgomery, from the Northwest Park area, noted that despite having overhead sewers and a sump pump, his house floods because the main City sewer line serving his house and others on his block is inadequate to handle the several 100-year floods we’ve had in the past five years.

Unfortunately, Mazzuca’s and Montgomery’s incisive observations were met with bureaucratese from Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim, who defended the 10-year storm focus because that’s the “industry standard” – without apparently appreciating the absurdity of that statement in light of the flooding we’ve actually experienced.  And he analogized building a sewer system for 100-year floods to building a 300-seat restaurant “for the one time you have a wedding.”

Sorry, Wayne, but we’ve had at least four “weddings” in the past five years.  And if one gives any credence whatsoever to the climate change theory, a continuing or increasing number of “weddings” seems more of a certainty than a likelihood.  Which means you should probably buy yourself a tux rather than keep relying on rentals.

Mazzuca’s comment that “[i]f we were to continue with the Burke [10-year flood] plan, we’re still not solving the capacity problem” – and Montgomery’s observation that “[t]he plan for a 10-year flood, a 10-year rain is just shortsighted” – sound spot-on to us.

The bottom line is that EVERYBODY knows, or reasonably should know through nothing more than simple observation and the application of common sense, that expecting any significant flooding relief from a 10-year flood plan is just a couple of degrees north of “foolish”…and heading towards “delusional.”  Throwing time, effort and boxcars of cash at such a plan, therefore, would appear to be stupid and wasteful – unless that 10-year plan comes with a much-needed system-wide sewer evaluation to determine the extent and degree our existing sewer system has been neglected and in need of basic repairs or replacement.

We don’t know how much of the $800,000 appropriated for the Burke study has been spent already, but to the extent there’s any left un-spent we strongly suggest the Mayor and City Council put the brakes on before it’s all gone.  Nobody, including the victims of chronic flooding and the taxpayers as a whole, will be properly served by finding out at the next big flood control presentation on November 11 that we’ve spent $800,000 on what amounts to a plastic beach pail when a 20,000 gallon-per-hour pump is needed.

Whether we can afford the pump is a legitimate question, but do we really want to waste millions on the pail?

To read or post comments, click on title.