NORWALK, Conn. – Flood-stricken Norwalk residents were assured Tuesday that their voices are being heard and that work is under way to assess and address their problems.
“Sometimes there is very little that can be done but we need a consultant to tell us that,” new Chief of Operations and Public Works Anthony Robert Carr said to concerned citizens at the Common Council Public Works Committee meeting.
“There is something that could be done, for sure, and those include maintenance activities, dredging open channels, dredging swales, dredging Friendly Pond or at least at the minimum, clearing outlets, and inlets, whichever way you want to look at it, so the water can leave… We’re going to be issuing heavy pipe cleaning and dredging contract within the next few weeks.”
Carr, Council members and DPW Principal Engineer Lisa Burns stressed that a comprehensive study is being done, and City administration is open to increasing the capital budget to address flooding concerns.
Two lifelong Norwalkers, Matt Scully and Anthony Tomosino, said they were considering leaving because of water difficulties.
They never had flooding until four years ago, they said. Scully and Tomosino noted that an Andrews Field culvert nearby appears to be clogged.
Others are affected by a sudden uptick in rainfall; Mayor Harry Rilling in October said, “Norwalk experienced more rain in just one week than it usually does over two full months.”
A Sept. 25 storm sent 105 million gallons of stormwater through a system built to handle 90 million gallons a day, Public Works Committee Chairman John Igneri (D-District E) said in October.
Angelo DiPasquale, who lives on the notoriously flood-prone Saddle Road, said he’s been talking to City officials about the problems for eight years.
“I am not talking about just mold I am talking about sewage and it’s not just directly in front of my house. When it floods, my house becomes an island. So you’re talking about the full 360 on my property,” DiPasquale said.
“We’ve been told it’s the 100-year storm, the 50-year storm, the 500-year storm – what’s next? You’re going to tell us 1,000-year storm? We’re not buying it anymore,” Luigi Dacunto, another Saddle Road resident, said. “There’s got to be a way to get this clear and there’s got to be a way to get the water out of our area. Back when (Friendly Pond) was created, the engineers there knew something, because they kept a lot of (property) dry. And now it doesn’t. So there’s got to be a reason why the water is not leaving.”
Council members in 2015 allocated money for a diversion effort, and then authorized more money in the following year, but that “a marginal fix to begin,” Senior Civil Engineer Paul Sotnik said in October. Sotnik described that work as a $300,000 band-aid.
“The problems are going to get worse,” DiPasquale said. “It’s not going to get better, I guarantee it. Band-aids are being put into the system, the infrastructure. No more band-aids, we need to make the repairs final.”
Saddle Road residents met with Rilling in November and were promised updates and information, DiPasquale told NancyOnNorwalk.
“Here we are in April, we haven’t had a meeting since,” he said.
“We are not talking about this now and then leaving here and forgetting about it,” Igneri said to the crowd of about 15 people, as he led the meeting. “I am in many meetings during the week, conversations on the phone, about all these issues. We are trying and we are talking to other Committees… we are trying to find a solution for the city, which includes your particular areas. So it takes a little time, bear with us, but we are not looking for band-aids. We are trying to find a long-term solution.”
Effective, long-term fixes were a theme. Burns said a consultant had been hired in December and reviewed a study done by Milone and McBroom, which Carr referred to as being useful and informative but seven years old and in need of an update.
“I agree that this analysis has to be looked at holistically. You don’t want to look at drainage issues in a silo because it’s almost like whack-a-mole,” Carr said, warning that sometimes solving one problem creates another elsewhere.
Carr started work three weeks ago and dealt with similar problems in his previous job in Mamaroneck, he said.
“On a personal level, I totally get it,” he assured attendees. “…Rest assured there’s a very solid engineering staff and operations staff at DPW, and I’ve worked at several so I can tell you that flat out.”
The Council in November appropriated $1 million, at Rilling’s request, to begin working on flooding issues. “Jacobs” was hired as a consultant, according to Burns, and now a another consultant may be hired to work in tandem, DPW Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre said.
Within the next few weeks a consultant will be selected, and will begin work by meeting with City staff and later hold a public workshop to gather information from residents, Carr said.
There’s a “high level of commitment from everyone involved,” Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee Chairman Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) said.
Last week, Sacchinelli talked of declaring the flooding a health crisis. On Tuesday, he asked Torre to explain the signage he’d mentioned in connection to that.
Sensors would be installed in flood-prone road locations, triggering flashing lights when there’s a problem, Torre said.
The signs would “give motorists some indication that the roadway is flooded before they drive through three feet of water,” Torre said. “So we are looking at getting grants for that funding and moving forward with that project, it is still in its infancy but that is something that we are looking at with emergency management, that we briefed Nick on… this morning.”
Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) mentioned the need to determine areas that might flood in the future and Darlene Young (D-District B) said sewage is a “grave concern.”
DPW is going to work on the County Street culvert Wednesday and there will be improvement, Carr said, warning that he’d be lying if he promised the problems will be solved.
It’s necessary to wait for the results of the study, he said. “It’s not necessarily an excuse to buy more time but on a professional level, I am asking for more time. I am here three weeks. The staff definitely knows what they are doing and I believe the City administration is committed, to, if we perform these studies and they warrant cost-feasible improvements, that they be open to expanding the capital budget. But I can’t speak for that, we can only recommend and then it’s up to the city administration to approve.”
DiPasquale told NancyOnNorwalk afterwards that he appreciated the sentiments expressed, but wanted more communication.
“If you are left in the clouds, you don’t know what’s going on, you’re left in limbo,” he said.