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Health, Science, Environment

Centreville Residents Sue City And Sewer Utility To Demand An End To Clogged Sewers

Earlie Fuse points to a plywood wall he constructed after his basement wall collapsed. Jan. 27, 2020
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Centreville resident Earlie Fuse has sued city officials and sewer utility Commonfields of Cahokia for failing to address clogged sewer and stormwater systems that have caused destructive flash flooding in his community.

Earlie Fuse’s home in Centreville, Illinois, flooded in 1993. 

Since then, Fuse and his neighbors have experienced worse floods. Some found that the sewer and stormwater systems were so clogged that raw sewage had seeped into people’s yards. Sometimes, a rain would lead to flash floods because the water had nowhere to drain. 

Lawyers on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against the city and sewer utility Commonfields of Cahokia. The suit, filed in East St. Louis on behalf of Fuse and Centreville resident Cornelius Bennett, seeks to fix long-neglected stormwater and sewer systems.

Multiple floods in recent years have made living in his home impossible, Fuse said. 

“When it floods, you can’t use your bathroom, your bathtub or any of that. You try to drain the tub and water doesn’t go down,” said Fuse, 79. 

Flooding has damaged Fuse’s home so much that he’s replaced his hot water tank and his basement walls several times in the last decade. He has repeatedly requested help from Centreville and Commonfields officials. Sometimes sewer utility workers will turn on a pump station in East St. Louis to help address the flood, but it’s difficult to reach anyone on the phone, Fuse said. 

Centreville city officials and Commonfields of Cahokia’s general manager could not be reached for comment.

Centreville is a predominantly black community of about 5,000 residents. One third of the population lives below the poverty line. Dozens of residents on the north side of town have complained about being trapped in their homes when flash flooding occurs. Some check on their yards every day for raw sewage. They’re also worried the sewer backups have contaminated their drinking water supply, so they drink bottled water that the Urban League of St. Louis provided them since last fall. 

Fuse doesn’t want to leave his home because he can’t afford to move. But the stress from multiple floods caused his wife to leave him six years ago. 

“My wife got tired of getting up and not being able to get out because of the flood,” Fuse said. “She decided she would just move out.”

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

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