Water woes: More heavy rain brings more headaches in Hartford


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Residents in several areas of Hartford and in CT were still dealing with previous flooding from the torrential rainstorms during the first two weeks of July when heavy rains during a tornado watch resulted in the highest-recorded rain totals in each county, ranging from 3.38 inches in Hartford County to 1.07 inches in New London County.  Hartford residents shared the horrors of their flooded businesses and homes after new flooding on Sunday 7/16/2023, closed roads, and soaked basements in several counties across the State.

Many North Hartford residents have applauded the state for pledging $85 million to mitigate flooding in the streets and their basements but expressed that the pledge will not eliminate their sickening memories of sewage, massive amounts of water, and damage to their homes. The flooding issues continue and are compounded by sewers that are inadequate to handle the volume of water created by the heavy rainstorms. Other residents are hopeful that the funds will be distributed to help the residents in a timely fashion.

Five residents have shared stories of the emotional toll caused by the flooding whenever it rains and the continuous flooding in their homes and businesses, the smell of decay, and the heavy losses that they incur (many losses cannot be replaced).

Sharon Lewis, a Hartford resident and executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, said that since the Dec. 4 flooding, she has endured several setbacks. The biggest setback was finding out that she was not insured for sewage backups. Her house is still condemned, but she and her husband had been living in a hotel and their last day was July 3. She is currently living in temporary housing and the rent is paid by a private donor for a period of one year.  Lewis has expressed her gratitude for the people who have helped her during such stressful circumstances and she remains tremendously overwhelmed. She offered that she had been hospitalized twice for issues relating to stress. According to the Hartford Courant, Lewis said:

“All of my precious antiques were destroyed and discarded. My mother’s DNA was in the basement freezer. I never got around to sending it in. Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a collector of rare artifacts from the African American experience post-slavery my entire life. I was so proud to own a piece of history. Gone in an instant.”

“Then to discover that I was technically homeless?… This has taken a tremendous toll on me. Never in a million years would I have thought that I’d be in a situation such as this. Seven months and one day living in limbo not being able to help myself due to the emotional toll this has taken.  I have been hospitalized twice for issues relating to stress.”

Bridgette Prince, a community activist, knows the pain of grieving and mourning the loss of cherished memorabilia and tangible artifacts that can never be replaced. Prince explained that although she had lost her military items to flooding 35 years ago, the pain of the loss remains in her heart to this day and fuels her fight as a community leader and activist for issues to be resolved for all residents in the north end. Prince was born in Hartford and grew up in East Hartford where she and many of her friends aspired to be in the military and were able to make their dream a reality. Her father’s house in Hartford flooded 35 years ago and Prince lost her military uniform, paperwork, metals, and certificates from the military (all cherished memorabilia that she had stored in his home) some of which cannot be replaced.

Prince offered that according to the National Weather Service,  much more rain is expected this week and there will be more flooding. Therefore leaders should be making sure that residents are protected from flooding with immediate relocation assistance and other forms of assistance. Regarding the July 4 flooding, according to the Hartford Courant, Prince said :

“People call me crying. You know the Church called me. This is how I found out about the church, North United Methodist Church called me on the 4th of July. And I was like, the irony of it, Independence Day… How do you celebrate independence when we are still looking and fighting for the government to say okay, this matters, this is beyond urgent… Leaders should be making sure residents are “independent of sewage and toxins and waste and flooding coming into your property, destroying your possessions that you worked hard for, that you inherited, that you earned.”

Prince also expressed her opinion that during the recent flood, the City should have been out there supporting all residents who needed assistance, including relocation assistance.  She continued that officials who attended the recent press conference celebrating the $85 million in funding announced by Gov. Ned Lamont should have also been present to help constituents during the recent flood.

Nikeda Parkes is a homeowner who lives on Granby Street. When she purchased her home she did not know that she would be inheriting flooding issues. Parks report that during the last rainfall, water began gathering by a huge tree at the back of her home. The roots of the tree are affecting the foundation of her home which is built on a slab and has no basement. Since the recent rain, she is unable to cut her grass because of the water that has pooled by the tree and created a swamp that has taken over her entire backyard. The standing water also breeds mosquitos and other types of insects and bugs because it has not run off to the street.

Parkes said it took her by surprise that many of her neighbors on the street had been dealing with flooding issues over a long period of time. She is hopeful that things will eventually get better due to the funding that is being put in place. According to the Hartford Courant, Parkes said “They [her neighbors]  have gotten so used to the empty promises, that they don’t have any hope in seeing that it’s gonna be fixed.”

Reggie Hales is a Hartford native and president of the Hartford Enterprise Zone Business Association and publisher of the Inquiring News. He no longer lives in the area, but he represents and supports local merchants in Main Street, Barbour Street, and Windsor Street areas, known as the “Enterprise Zone.” Hales pointed out that merchants and residents in these areas are exhausted because, despite the recent funding, the City knew that flooding from the severe storms was going to happen again and residents and merchants in the area are left at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Hales informed that he is advising residents and business owners that it could be time to solicit legal assistance on the matter of fixing the sewage and flooding issues because “we are low on the totem pole, these promises come every four years and at the end of the day, we continue to suffer” Hales continued that the flooding and sewage are negatively impacting merchants and their businesses in the north end, they are losing customers, and are unable to open for business as they clean up the damages for which many insurance companies do not cover the cost. He said, “Is it fair that they continue to be a victim of something that obviously is an emergency in any other community?”

Max Kothari, the business owner of Star Hardware,  is closing his business due to repeated flooding. He said that the issue is primarily about an infrastructure that needs to be handled by those in power, “The people in power keep talking about infrastructure, which is true. There are infrastructure issues that need to be dealt with. The majority of the issues are controllable within their reach, but they choose not to fix it. And that is very, very disheartening…To see… younger African American, minority kids playing in the sewer water, not knowing that they’re playing in sewer water. It’s just a crime. And what’s really astounding is the people in power know about this, (but it) does not equate to a health emergency. ” His hardware store was 35 years old and he had been running it with his wife for 35 years. He also said that it was traumatic coming to work on July 4 and having to call his employees to come and clean up the flooding instead of celebrating their independence holiday with their loved ones. Kothari continued to say that he is most stunned by the lack of humanity when it comes to solving issues in the north end.

Source Credit: Deidre Montague – Hartford Courant – July 17, 2023