Heavy rains bring flood problems for Covington

COVINGTON, KENTUCKY (FOX19) - Residents in the Peaselburg neighborhood of Covington are still cleaning up from flooding earlier in the week when a combined sewer overflowed into the streets and seeped into basements.

Combined sewers are mixed with storm water and when there is a major rain event the system simply cannot hold it all.

Normally the system works fine. Rain events like what residents have seen this week typically only happen once every 50 to 100 years, but there have been three of them in the last three years. The worst occurred three years ago in the summer of 2010.

"Sewage from in people's homes are going into that same system," resident Nomi Schawe Lane said. "So when that backs up that's exactly what it is and for days afterward if it doesn't rain you can't open the windows."

Nomi says the flooding wasn't a concern when she was a kid living in the neighborhood.

"When I was younger and it would rain everybody would love it. Kids in the yard, parents on the porch," she recalled. "Now when it rains everyone heads to their basement."

Her family has lived in the community for generations.

"I grew up here and I've never lived anywhere else," she told FOX19.

The overflows have her contemplating a move away from the neighborhood she loves, however.

"It comes down to we don't have adequate drainage," she stated.

Sanitation District 1 is in charge of the combined sewer system and like many districts they are now required to minimize the overflows by a federal court order as a result of the Clean Water Act. This year the district asked for a 15% rate increase to comply with the consent decree but county judge/executives refused to increase the budget.

The decision came after Covington's city leaders approved a resolution that urged the Board of Directors of Sanitation District No. I to limit sewer or stormwater rate increases.

"It's sad because it's right in front of everyone's face and not repaired," Nomi said.

While the Covington does not own the system,  it recognizes the city has a part in finding a solution for citizens.

"We certainly care for them," City Manager Larry Klein said. "We try to do everything we can but it's obviously not going to be enough. That's in the short term. Long term what we can do is continue to advocate with the utility provider."

Klein calls the flooding a regional issue.

"That storm water in their basements probably came from some other hilltop area in Northern Kentucky," he said.

"I may be old fashioned, but I still believe the person that lives across from you is still someone that you should look out for," Nomi said.

She would like, however, for the sewer district to be able to tackle the project without looking to rate increases.

The City of Covington has $600,000 from the state set aside and 14 acres of land for a detention basin storm water capture project, but the multimillion dollar project will need much more funding to get off the ground.

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