UPDATE: Volunteers Clean Storm Drains and Streets in St. Albans, Hoping to Prevent Further Flooding

By: Rahel Solomon, Amanda Barren; Olivia Fecteau Email
By: Rahel Solomon, Amanda Barren; Olivia Fecteau Email
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UPDATE: 9/7/2013 @ 4:55 p.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After a summer of repeated flooding problems in St. Albans, volunteers spent Saturday picking up trash and debris from storm drains and streets across the city in hopes of alleviating some of the problem.

More than 120 adults and children pitched in through the 25177 Foundation, a nonprofit organization that donates money to youth organizations in exchange for community service hours.

The 25177 Foundation gives $10 per volunteer to each organization that participates.

Walter Hall, who runs the 25177 Foundation, said cleaning the storm drains was important after this summer's flooding troubles.

"We hope to clean out the areas around the storm drains, along with trash along the sides of the roads that leads into those storm drains," Hall said.

Hall noted that kids often ask for donations for sports teams or clubs without thinking about how to earn the money.

"By getting out and getting their hands dirty, getting out in the community, I think, A -- the kids will learn how to earn their donation and take a little more pride in our city by keeping it clean," Hall said. "Maybe they'll think twice next time they go to litter."

Jayden Ware, 14, helped pick up trash Saturday to support the St. Albans Little Dragons midget football league.

"It's just nice to help the city and make everything look better and attractive," Ware said.

People whose homes and yards have been flooded multiple times this summer said the cleanup is a step in the right direction.

"I think it's a great thing," Chuck Slusher, who lives on Monroe Avenue, said. "At the same time, what you're wanting to do has to be directed in the right areas and what needs done."

Slusher lives across from a baseball field and said the flooding in that part of town is frustrating.

"It's like punching a wall," Slusher said. "Every time they come in here and they get it cleaned up, get the dug-outs, all the mud and everything out of the dug-outs, they're right back to another water flood."

Some volunteers also picked up trash on MacCorkle Avenue through the Adopt a Highway program.

Volunteers involved in Saturday's cleanup said their service was about making St. Albans a nicer place to live, while helping the city keep the storm drains clean.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE: 8/29/2013 @ 6:08 p.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- State officials are looking at the flooding problems in St. Albans and deciding how to tackle the issue of high water that has plagued the city all summer long. City leaders say the problem could be fixed if people would stop putting debris and brush in the stream.

"If people observe that and don't throw trash in the storm sewer drain, and don't throw pop bottles and plastic bottles and this and that, that'll cut down on the restrictions that end up in the storm water system," Mayor Dick Callaway said. "If everyone would just clean up their property and make sure that their storm sewer was clean, and not put grass in the road, that would go a long ways in solving some of the problems."

Callaway said he believes another problem is that people have changed the landscape in the city without consulting city planners or getting permits.

"Those tributaries have been adulterated by people changing the contour of the land, putting in buttresses, allowing trees and brush to grow over them," Callaway said. "Individuals that own property where the stream passes through there have done things throughout the years without benefit of planning or permitting."

The price tag to fix the problem is approximately $7 million. Callaway said the city has no control over cleaning the streams when it comes to dredging stream beds to allow for better water flow because the streams are the property of the state of West Virginia.

Neighbors on Monmouth Street, which has seen a large share of the flooding this summer, say that doesn't explain why their streets flood long before the streams overflow.

"[It's] a constant. Every time it rains hard, we get it," Connie McCoy said. "It's coming down the street and sometimes you really don't know. It has sewage in it, but not all the time."

When it rained Wednesday night, Karen Kincaid said she didn't think it would flood as badly as it did.

"That's not enough to flood," Kincaid said. "The creek wasn't even out of its bound, but the street was plum full."

Mayor Callaway said the drains work properly for normal rainfall, but that this summer's rain has been heavier than normal. He compared it to a two-gallon bucket of water.

"Pour it in your kitchen sink," Callaway said. "It'll go down, but it'll go down based on the capacity that sink was designed to handle."

When asked whether the city planned to enlarge the capacity of its drains, Callaway said he didn't know how they could make them larger and added that it would cost millions of dollars.

"Everybody's blaming torrential rains," Pete McCuskey, another neighbor, said. "Growing up, we had hard rains but it doesn't flood where we get two, three foot of water coming down the street."

He added, "I know that the city budget's tight. But to let people's homes be destroyed and their livelihoods be destroyed, without attempting to do anything -- it's not helping the town at all. It's not helping the people at all."

McCuskey and his neighbors said they are more than willing to volunteer their time and labor to clean up the debris and fix the problem, but they said they need support from the city and the community.

The city expects to get a report from the U.S.D.A. in the next few days to look at some of the options for dealing with the flooding.

One couple on Monmouth Street filed a civil suit against the city of St. Albans and the Municipal Utility Commission in 2011. Their attorney tells WSAZ.com their property was damaged by high water. The couple settled with the city, but the attorney says the city hasn't followed through on helping to keep the problem under control.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE: 7/18/2013 6:24 p.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Neighbors said they would believe it when they see it.

Thursday if they looked out their window they saw a civil engineer from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers taking a closer look at the creeks and streams in flood-prone areas of St. Albans.

The last round of major flooding happened earlier in July. When it rains neighbors get very concerned. One man told WSAZ.com the floodwaters have ruined three of his cars.

Mark MacGregor with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explained some of his preliminary thoughts after taking a walk around the area.

"The predominant thing I saw, he explained about the streams, "development over time sort of closing in streams and choking them down from their natural state of a wide open stream."

Mayor Dick Callaway said once the Corps issue a report to the City they will move forward and see what if anything can be done.

But he cautions that neighbors need to do their part too.

"People need to keep things out of the streams and creeks such as grass clippings, grass and such things that would obstruct the flow of water so that has to be something that becomes and educational process," explained Callaway.

There is no timetable for when the report from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will be filed.

Once it is City leaders receive it they will be able to look at what avenues they can take to get help to correct the problem.

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- For more than an hour St. Albans neighbors approached the lectern at Monday evening’s city council meeting.

One neighbor said, “My basement has water in it; my AC has water in it.”

Most of those that approached the lectern voiced frustration and anger with persistent flooding and what they lack inadequate city drains.

Neighbors told WSAZ.com certain areas of St. Albans have been hit hard by severe flooding for years and said now it’s time for city council to act.

“I'm tired of mopping up my basement, would you like to come over and mop it up,” one neighbor asked as she addressed the council.

St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway previously told WSAZ.com the drains weren’t built for the heavy rains the area has experienced, but Monday Callaway said a corps of engineers has been assigned to assess the drains and address the problems.

“They can make the recommendations on what can be done, but the problem is finding the finances to do what needs to be done,” Callaway said.

Neighbors like Gary Hager said they’re unconvinced that the problems will be resolved.

“I'll believe it when I see it,” Hager said. “It has been four years I've been asking for this, my neighbors have been asking for this. I want to see it.”

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