Centreville Homes Flood Again. Residents Say No One Will Help Them
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
Flooded homes and backed-up sewers during heavy rain have been a frustrating part of life for years in north Centreville, where residents say they still aren’t getting the help they need from their local government, despite repeated pleas and a lawsuit.
It happened again this week, when 3 to 6 inches of rain fell on the Metro East.
Patricia Greenwood said the crawl space and laundry room of her home on Piat Place were flooded.
“It started Monday night or early Tuesday morning and lasted all day Tuesday, and it wouldn’t stop,” said Greenwood, who is 70. “My husband is 5’9’’ and he had on thigh-high boots, and it came all the way up to his thigh.”
Officials from the city of Centreville and Commonfields of Cahokia did not return phone calls for this article. Commonfields owns the sewer system. City and Commonfields officials have refused to answer dozens of requests for comment about the flooding issue since last year.
Some residents and two lawyers who filed a lawsuit in June over the flooding issue said the city dug trenches through the area earlier this year and called it a successful solution. One of the lawyers, Nicole Nelson of Equity Legal Services Inc., said this week’s flooding proves the problems are still unresolved.
Nelson said residents who sought help from the city and Commonfields during the flooding this week couldn’t get anyone on the phone. She said she heard from more residents than normal seeking help as waters inundated their homes and streets.
Herb Simmons, the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency director, said roughly 3 to 6 inches of rain fell Tuesday in the Metro East. He said Centreville is in an area of the county that has regular flooding issues.
The agency sent boats to some properties, but Simmons said no residents accepted offers of rescue from their homes. Most residents, he said, were able to leave their homes on their own.
Simmons said Centreville’s police and fire departments assisted his agency.
Earlie Fuse, one of the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit, said his basement and garage on Piat Place were full of water Tuesday.
“It had quit raining for over an hour and all of a sudden, the water went to rising,” Fuse said. “It was rising 5 to 6 inches every 20 or 30 minutes.”
Fuse said he has experienced significant flooding in his basement over the nearly 30 years he has lived in his home. The walls of his basement have caved in at least five times, making it uninhabitable. Fuse said Tuesday’s storm was no different.
He said the city was helpful when he first reached out about flooding years ago, but not anymore.
Fuse and other residents say the constant flooding and sewage issues rule their lives, draining their finances and destroying their homes.
“It’s hard to get help out here,” Fuse said. ‘We’re an all-Black community, so it’s hard for us.”
Greenwood, who lives near Fuse, said this week’s flooding was the worst she has seen.
“That water is nasty, and it messed up the whole neighborhood,” Greenwood said. “Our floors are all rotten, so it’s just destroying our homes and everything. It’s just horrible.”
Sharon Smith, Fuse’s neighbor, said she had to miss work Wednesday because of the flooding.
“I couldn’t even drive in my street,” said Smith, who is 58. “I couldn’t even get to my house.”
Smith said she and her husband stayed with a nearby family on Tuesday night. She returned to her home early Wednesday. Smith said flooding in her backyard reached as high as her porch, which left water and mud prints on her walls. Her laundry room was also flooded.
Earlier this month, Nelson and Kalila Jackson of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fuse and fellow Centreville resident Cornelius Bennett. Defendants are the city of Centreville, Centreville Mayor Marius “Mark” Jackson, Centreville Township, Township Supervisor Curtis McCall Sr., the Commonfields of Cahokia and its superintendent, Dennis Traiteur.
The lawsuit asks the court to stop the defendants from depositing or diverting stormwater onto their properties and to replace some of the village’s pump or lift stations by July 10. The suit also asks for the installation of new sewer lines, where needed, as well as a monitor to make sure the changes are being made.
The defendants have until July 10 to respond.
Bennett, Fuse and other residents, calling themselves Centreville Citizens for Change, sent a letter to the mayor in March asking him to do something about the flooding.
The group says it still hasen’t heard from the mayor.
Kavahn Mansouri and DeAsia Page are a reporters with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
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