Nov 5, 2021 - News

Flooding woes continue to plague Philadelphia's Cedar Park

Illustration of a water drop emoji mixed with a swearing face emoji.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A Philadelphia Water Department town hall turned sour Wednesday night over an ongoing investigation into flooding plaguing the Cedar Park neighborhood.

What's happening: Neighbors and City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who represents the area, have been pushing the city agency for next steps to resolve the chronic flooding.

  • But the department focused this week's presentation on how neighbors can perform flood mitigation themselves and how to apply to city programs.

Of note: City water leaders said Wednesday they cannot share investigation details until the department gathers more information.

  • "This is a top priority, but the engineers can't analyze what they don't have," Water Commissioner Randy Hayman said.

State of play: West Philadelphia residents have been pleading with the city for several months about chronic flooding that has worsened since August. They've said it's coming from their pipes.

  • The city water agency said Hurricane Ida was the first time the department was notified of the neighborhood's flooding issues.

What they're saying: Ben Jewell, the agency's manager of waste and stormwater operations, said the department inspected and cleaned inlets in the area in early September, as well as 1,000 feet of sewer piping following a flooding incident later that month. Inspectors found no significant structural issues, he said.

  • "We're aware there was a maintenance issue in our sewer system Sept. 23, [and] we believe we resolved that issue," Jewell said.

Yes, but: Neighbors have complained about flooding as recently as two weeks ago.

  • Plus, several neighbors have shared concerns to Gauthier’s office and the city’s 311 line about raw sewage ending up on Malcolm Street, right behind Whitby.

The other side: "I was hoping they would take the sewage on the street more seriously," Brianna Gross, a homeowner, told Taylor after the department's town hall. "The odor is terrible, and I've seen clumps of toilet paper since Ida."

  • Dan Farrell, another neighbor, said he's spent at least $10,000 on repairs and assessments after insurance and a FEMA grant because of the constant flooding. He doesn't have faith in the department to fix the issue.
  • "I felt patronized and that they were telling us it was our fault," he said. "I'm resigned to selling in about five months."

Meanwhile, Gauthier said in a statement to Axios that she understands residents' frustration.

  • "Not only have residents had to cope with significant public health issues, but they've put out large sums of money to address the problems on their own," Gauthier said.

What's next: The Water Department said it could reconvene with Cedar Park neighbors in about a month, even though the agency likely won't find a cause by then. The agency said it's committed to sharing data collection and further planning.

  • No date has been set for the next meeting.
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