St. Louis – The Metropolitan Sewer District says a court ruling last week striking down a storm water fee will make solving problems like Wednesday night's flash flooding even harder.
North St. Louis County took the worst hit from the storms that dumped as many as four inches of rain on the region in an hour. Many homes in the community of Northwoods were deemed unsafe, and utility companies had cut service, forcing people to find shelter elsewhere. In East St. Louis, traffic came to a standstill at the Interstate 64-55-70 interchange Wednesday evening as water reached the roofs of cars. About a dozen vehicles were stranded there.
A district judge ruled on Friday that the fee, which is based on how much of a property cannot drain storm water, needed voter approval before being implemented. It was designed to give MSD a steady stream of funding for storm water projects.
MSD knows storm water drainage is a problem in St. Louis, said agency spokesman Lance LeComb.
"In the past we were just doing the basic bare bones what we could because it was very limited funding," he said. "And without that funding there is nothing we can do at this point to provide any type of storm water relief for the community." But he added that MSD would never be able to build a system big enough to handle all the rain that fell Wednesday. MSD received about 400 calls for basement backups.
Some North County residents put the blame for their flooding problems on the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The half-square mile municipality of Cool Valley sits at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Florissant Rd, and Mayor Viola Murphy said flooding problems have gotten worse since MoDOT rerouted the interstate at that location in 2001.
Florissant floods even in minor storms, said David Sciortino, who runs a chiropractor's office in Cool Valley. Wednesday night's deluge left the road, which runs in front of the building, under several feet of fast-moving water for an hour.
"And when it had all dropped, it had washed away enough of the soil and rock under my parking lot that the whole parking lot collapsed," Sciortino said. He also lost thousands in medical equipment when lightning struck the transformer outside his office.
A MoDOT spokesman said the department's engineers study where the water will flow during storms for any road project and did not think the changes are responsible for the flooding.