Thursday, June 04, 2009

Slack DOT care may worsen flooding

Since we're expecting heavy rain, what are the chances Charlotte's streets will flood? Pretty high, especially since a good many storm drains on our streets have been clogged with debris since the last heavy rain – or even longer.

The photo above is a drain on a city-maintained street near where I live. It has been clogged with debris for weeks (maybe months, I only noticed it after the recent flooding). Its inability to drain is one reason a nearby low spot on Wendover Road collects water during heavy rains, often putting a lane on Wendover under water. And the drains along Wendover itself are, if anything, even more clogged.
I asked Charlotte DOT director Danny Pleasant recently about the clogged drains. He said his department clears them and to report clogged drains on the city's 311 phone line. (I confess I haven't called 311 about the drain in the photo; I wanted to see if it would get cleaned anyhow. It hasn't.) Update: I got a call about 4 p.m. from the city's solid waste services department. It cleans the tops of drains, and CDOT cleans the underneath and the catch basins. I suspect the drain in the photo above will be cleaned by tomorrow morning. We'll see.
But Wendover, Pleasant said, is state-"maintained" (quote marks mine). I wonder how many years it has been since the state has cleaned Wendover or its drains.
Note this photo of dirt in the Wendover gutters. The dirt is so deep the weeds are, in some spots, knee high. The state's road maintenance efforts are, well, the best word is slovenly. Is it this bad in other N.C. cities? Readers in Asheville, Greensboro, Raleigh, etc., are state-maintained roads in your city similarly clogged with years of dirt and debris?
I will note, however, that homeowners who aren't keen on flooded streets could always clean the storm drains in front of their houses and dig the dirt from the gutters.
Where does the dirt come from? Some of it's yard-care debris that's blown into the street (How about telling your landscapers to stop that?) and some is from construction sites, where contractors break the erosion laws and let soil run off into streets and creeks – the largest cause of water pollution. The gutter near the storm drain in the photo above is 3 inches deep in sandy sedimentation from two construction sites up the hill.


28 comments:

Anonymous said...

So you are advocating that the city or state pay for people to constantly patrol the roads looking for clogged storm drains. Imagine the cost in manpower and gas just to monitor, much less clean anything.

How about this then, instead of just posting pictures and complaining on your blog, you just do what the city SAYS to do, go through the trouble of making the phone call, and they'll get someone out to fix it. There are a million people living in this city. There ought to be at least one person per block that can make that call when necessary, thus saving hundreds of thousands, if not millions in expenses to the city and/or state. If you (or one) don't (or doesn't) care enough to make the call, then don't then later complain when there is flooding. DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF BESIDES COMPLAIN AND DON'T EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT TO JUST HOLD YOUR HAND ALL THE TIME!

Anonymous said...

Independence often floods and while driving thru the area recently I noticed all kinds of road debris that washes down to clog the storm drains.

Clean drains and functioning street lights seem like a no-brainers for all roads no matter if they're city or state maintained.

Mary Newsom said...

The first commenter has a valid point, so I want to clarify: I typically DO call these sorts of things in, and I encourage all citizens to do so. Sometimes something actually gets done and sometimes not. (I've been telling CDOT about an overgrown and impassible sidewalk on Runnymede near Alexander Graham Middle School for nine years now, and nothing has changed.)

In this case, however, I was experimenting to see what would happen if I left the situation alone.

Tim said...

Im glad Im not your neighbor. I;d hate to have my house broken into while I was away and have you "experiment" instead of calling 911 for me.

Scott- Charlotte said...

Do as they say and call 311. You said in your comment that you usually do call, but in your article you said you did not. So which one is it? How many thousands of drains are there in Charlotte? There is no feasible way for the city or state to be able to check every one of them. It is your responsibility as a citizen to call 311 to alert them of situations that need attention. Also, why not just be a good neighbor and clear out the drain yourself? I do it all the time on my street.

Anonymous said...

you could just help out and clear the debris instead of complaining about it on this blog.

Mary Newsom said...

Oh for Pete's sake! Of course I'd call 911 for a break-in. And if this drain were closer to my house, I or someone in our household would go out with gloves and a trashcan and clean it. But traveling half a mile in order to clean out storm drains is above and beyond, in my opinion.

And there's no way I'm standing out in Wendover Road with cars going 55 (in a 35 mph zone) to shovel out gutters and a drain. Sorry.

All the people who are berating me are welcome to go take their own lives in their own hands on Wendover (and Runnymede as long as you're in that neighborhood). And please clean the Runnymede sidewalks, while you're out there with your rakes and shovels and trashbags.

Lance said...

I found a storm drain that was plugged solid. I called for 3 months to get it unplugged. I finally had to go to a dept. head and show him the documentation of how many times I called to get it fixed. We keep our own drain in front of our house cleared.

2whls3spds said...

We pay taxes and a multitude of fees that "supposedly" are spent to maintain our roadways. Cleaning drains and gutters is part of maintenance. We also pay "storm water" fees and property taxes...

Aaron

Jumper said...

You are correct, Mary. It's best to seize the day and take care of it ourselves when possible, and yes, 1/2 mile away is above and beyond.

Be careful what you ask for, though. One of the city's subcontractors came through and paved the street. There aren't that many private roads left in Charlotte, but this was one of them, so I assumed they just didn't KNOW they really weren't required to pave it. It didn't need it anyway. And I can assure everyone the neighbors or owners or I had no special "pull" or even any interest in getting this done. We have other fish to fry, as they say.

So when they came by and scraped the old street in preparation to lay down the new asphalt, they deposited the pile of scrapings on the yard. My yard. And wouldn't come back to clean it out. Finally a month or so ago they did. I even planted some squash plants over there.

The bush hog crew came by today and killed the squash plants. I'm sure they'd been told to do an extra good job.

J said...

I have little confidence in calling 311. I will call when I see a situation like this near my home, but will do so with no expectation the situation will be rectified in my lifetime. I'm also not willing to walk out onto Independence Blvd near the Eastway bridge to clean out those gutters where it usually floods. I don't have a death wish.

Sales taxes and property taxes have been going up, and services provided have decreased. I don't think Mary is the one everyone needs to be yelling at.

Anonymous said...

We are fortunate to have a street light in front of our house, in our South Charlotte neighborhood that recently experienced a spate of car break-ins. Being elderly, we need all the crime deterence measures we can find, including that light.

My wife called 311 when the light went on the fritz after a recent storm. She called 311 at 10:30 p.m. at night. A live person answered, took the info, and said it would be fixed with 5 days. The power company showed up three days after we called.

311 Works!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:36 has it right.

Clean it out yourself.

THis is the problem with this country: too many people expect government to do everything, then wonder why it cost's so much.

Sweep your own sidewalk, clean a gutter - oh wouldn't want to stoop to getting your hands dirty -

The college eddikated - too good to do manual labor.

But if everyone has a college education - as advocated by thoughtless ones - who'll clean the gutters?

Michael said...

There's a storm drain in front of my property. I take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to keep it cleared of debris because it's in front of MY property. Leaving trash and debris there would be a detraction to the aesthetics of MY property and I never even thought of DEPENDING ON GOVERNMENT for this menial task, given the overwhelming incompetence and unresponsiveness of GovCo.

Choose your fights, Mary.

Anonymous said...

I always thought sidewalk was to be maintained by the abutting property owner. Isn't that CMS on Runnymede?

Anonymous said...

BIG SURPISE! GOVERNMENT IS INEFFICIENT AND WASTEFUL. WHEN ARE PEOPLE GOING TO WAKE UP TO THE FACT THAT GOVERNMENT IS SCREWING US ALL!

Pathmaker said...

Government might be all those things. But what about Wachovia, GM, Chrysler, BofA, Enron and all the "too big to fail" private sector corporations? No organization made up of humans is perfect. It's just that gov't - especially local - is an open book which everyone can read and write upon its pages. Private sector is, well, private with little accountability to anyone, often not even stockholders. Run government like a business? I don't think you would like the outcome. Call 311. It works more often than not.

Anonymous said...

But I can choose to deal with a private firm. I must deal with the government. If I don't pay my taxes I go to jail. If I don't shop at Wal Mart no big deal. So there is a huge difference between gov't and the private sector. Government in its very nature is force.

Anonymous said...

Government an open book. What planet are you living on?

Anonymous said...

MARY, A typical DO GOODER.

Anonymous said...

WHEN ARE PEOPLE GOING TO WAKE UP TO THE FACT THAT CORPORATIONS ARE SCREWING US ALL! AT LEAST THE GOVERNMENT IS MITIGATING THE RESULTING ECONOMIC CHAOS.

AND HOW DO I USE THE LOWERCASE KEYS ON THIS KEYBOARD?

Anonymous said...

TAXATION IS SLAVERY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"No resource will flourish if managed by the government" James Cook

Anonymous said...

"The advocates of public control cannot do without inflation. They need it in order to finance their policy of reckless spending and of lavishly subsidizing and bribing voters." Ludwig Von Mises

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

IF EVERYONE USED ALL CAPS WE'D ALL GET USED TO IT! THEN AFTER A WHILE SOME GENIUS LIKE DON MARQUIS WOULD COME ALONG!

i sure wish it was soon i had to eat 2 xtra meals to operate the shift key today and mary there is a cat in here at night i wish you would have removed
archy

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:54 What kind of grass are you smoking?

Mary Newsom said...

Dear anon 11:54, unlike the previous commenter, I caught and enjoyed your allusion to archy and mehitabel by Don Marquis, who invented the characters while working as a columnist for The Evening Sun in New York.

archy (cq, no capital letter) is a cockroach/poet who types in all lower case. mehitabel is a cat. For more:
http://www.donmarquis.com/archy/