Rain, rain go away, come again another day. Or, better yet, maybe a month or two from now. The coastal location that makes Norwalk one of the most beautiful cities in the country also makes it one of the most prone to floods. Depending on the tide, even a minor rain event can cause flooding in some areas of the city. But recently, it has been something more.
No doubt, we need a break from the unprecedented rainfall that pounded our city and caused significant flooding issues and damage. In just one week, we had nearly 10.5 inches of rain as monitored by the Norwalk Health Department Rain Gauge. To put that in context, the historical rain totals in Norwalk for September are approximately 4.5 inches and in October roughly 3.9 inches, for a two month average of 8.4 inches. Norwalk experienced more rain in just one week than it usually does over two full months.
Another way we analyze how much water is going through the city is looking toward the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Typically, the Plant handles 13 million gallons per day. However, during recent storms, more than 100 million gallons flowed through the Plant. A lot of water has fallen in short bursts, and our systems cannot keep up. The fact that we had so many rain events grouped so closely together meant there was no time for the ground to dry and absorb the water, and drainage systems were still processing previous storms. Simply put, there is nowhere for the water to go.
The city’s infrastructure dates back decades, and was built on industry standards to withstand a “10-year storm.” That term is used to categorize rainfall events and is calculated by looking at inches of rainfall per hour. For Norwalk, a 10-year event is the equivalent of 1.8 inches of rain in 60 minutes. These recent storms have dropped more than twice as much rain in similar or shorter time frames, thus classifying the events more like 100 or 200-year storms.
The city continues to use technology to inspect lines with cameras to look for blockages and clear debris that could be the cause of water backups or poor drainage. The city maintains more than 12,000 catch basins, and hundreds of miles of pipes, so this remains a constant work in progress. Pipes run under city streets across private and public property, so it’s not as simple as “rip it up and start over.” That said, anytime we do a road repair, we ensure the project includes increasing the size of the pipes in the area to help improve the flow of water through the system.
However, more must be done to correct these issues. That is why I am submitting a special appropriation request of $1 million to help reduce flooding in the city. We know based on historical data that some areas in Norwalk need to be addressed first, so that is where we will start.
A partnership between residents and the city is the only way we will be able to address flooding promptly. We need the public’s help. I ask residents to please continue to call Customer Service at (203) 854-3200 to report issues. Residents can also use the Customer Service smartphone app (available on iOS and Android) or online portal (bit.ly/NorwalkCAR) to submit a request.
These problems cannot be solved overnight, and I assure you that we take your feedback seriously. We are doing everything we can to proactively address the causes of flooding in our city.