First reported 7/23/2011 2:56 p.m.
The Facebook page Forest Parkers Against Flooding was swarmed last Saturday morning with users complaining of flooded basements and offering advice on which mechanical devices most effectively prevent inundation.
The anecdotes started pouring in on the morning of July 23 after the Chicago area was pounded with 4 to 7 inches of rain, and the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Des Plaines River.
“Basement flooded about 3 to 4 feet high, lots of gravels in basement and we start to have a nasty coming seepage. I read in the local news the village got funds to repair or at least clean up the sewage on Desplaines. What are they waiting for to start? Getting tired to wash everything and have a unusable basement, and the freaking smell … getting tired of this!!!!” wrote Sebastian Rivas, of the 800 block of Elgin Avenue, on the Facebook page.
Benn Joseph, another Forest Parker, wrote, “Hey all, for those of you who had a system installed and are still experiencing problems, be sure none of your downspouts are going down into your sewer line – we had to reroute ours when our swing check valve was installed. We haven’t had any issues since getting this thing done. And yes, a year to the day – crazy!”
Last year, Forest Park experienced record rainfall when 6.5 to 7.9 inches hit the village and neighboring towns.
Donna Dorney, of the 7700 block of Adams Street has lived in Forest Park for 21 years; she said she is frustrated with what appears to be inactivity on the part of village officials.
“I know we don’t have $90 million but they have to be more concerned … and they’re not,” said Dorney, in reference to estimates by the village board that a revamped sewer system could cost $60-$90 million.
In an email, Mayor Anthony Calderone said that, shortly after the storm, he participated in a conference call with Cook County’s office of Homeland Security and the heads of other municipalities to discuss “flooding in homes, the readiness of the county emergency operations center, sandbagging for communities along the Des Plaines River.”
During a later conversation, Calderone said, “If, in the event we were to see continued harshness, resources and equipment would have been provided [by the county].”
Dorney’s basement flooded Saturday morning too – a combination of sewage water and rainwater.
“There were at least 50 remarks made on Facebook … from all different areas [of Forest Park], it’s all over,” she said.
Commissioner Chris Harris remarked on the page that residents should attend the July 25 council meeting to “Demand action, hold your elected officials accountable, exercise democracy.”
Harris noted that he has “openly” expressed concerns about the issue at past meetings, and added that his remarks have fallen on “deaf ears.” Since being elected in May, Harris has publically criticized the village for a number of reasons – most recently, over a collective bargaining agreement with the village’s mechanic that was almost entirely completed upon his arrival – but has offered few alternatives to village business he has taken issue with.
Gretchen Schwartz, another user on the Facebook page, noted in a post that she attended the July 25 meeting, along with other residents, to express concerns with the sewer system. After the meeting, Schwartz wrote, Mayor Calderone invited the residents and Fire Chief Steve Glinke into his office to discuss the matter. Calderone reportedly said village will be sending out a questionnaire to collect data about residents’ flooding. The mayor also said the village sent a form in residents’ water bills to apply for “funds that were allocated for villagers” to have flood control systems installed in their homes, according to Schwartz. Presently, it is not clear where those “funds” would come from, although it is possible that Schwartz was referring to federal emergency funds the village received earlier this year.
Calderone could not be reached at press time to confirm this meeting or any of Schwartz’s claims.
As for last week’s flooding, 68-year-old Dorney still thinks the village could do more.
“They’re losing residents,” she said, with frustration. “I’m 68 years old. Where am I going to go?”