Village continues to investigate flooding issue on Buckingham

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 25, 2013

BEVERLY HILLS — Buckingham Street resident Leslie Sheets wants the days of worrying about water in her basement to be over. 

Sheets was one of a handful of homeowners in the 15000 block of Buckingham who experienced flooding in their basements following heavy rainfall Aug. 30 — a problem that village officials said they are still investigating, along with some help from Oakland County.

“My husband went downstairs and discovered we had three inches of standing water in the basement, and it was rapidly rising. It had propelled the drain cover four feet away from the drain,” she said.

“This was at 2 a.m. We had to dry the basement out, and then wash it with Clorox. It was just a mess.”

The next day, Sheets said, she checked on her elderly neighbors and discovered that they, too, had experienced overflow issues.

“They all go to bed early, so they missed the whole event,” she said.

“My neighbor to the east had her sump pump overflow in her basement, and the smell was just wonderful,” she said sarcastically. “The neighbor two houses down had water that ruined some rugs in her basement. The lady across the street whose house is up for sale also had water, and the list goes on and on.”

Sheets called the village the following Tuesday morning, and said she got a “very rapid response.”

“In an hour, they sent employees out to look at the drain and said there was no problem. An hour and a half later, Oakland County arrived with a huge truck, and also said the drains were running smoothly,” she said.

Village Manager Chris Wilson acknowledged that there were reports of a cluster of floodings in that area, which he said were followed up on immediately by Department of Public Services employees, as well as the Oakland County Water Resources Commission.

“We do continue to investigate that. We did have a heavy rain event on Aug. 30, and we did experience some water in basements in the area of Buckingham at Greenfield,” he said.

The area is part of what is known as the GWK drainage district, which Wilson said at the Sept. 17 Village Council meeting is not known for experiencing such problems.

“We’ve been working with Oakland County to investigate the sewer in that area, and we haven’t been able to find a blockage as of yet that would account for that backup, but we’re not stopping,” he said.

“It is peculiar we experienced those issues on Buckingham, but not on the streets to the north or to the south.”

At that same time, there were isolated incidents of flooding on the village’s east side, which Wilson noted were later tied to problems with sewer leads.

“One business had a problem with the catch basins in their parking lot. We had one other issue on Auburn Road we’re continuing to investigate, but the one on Buckingham has us the most concerned,” he said.

“We did have (village engineers) Hubbell, Roth & Clark take a look at this, and they told us it looks like it was a 100-year rain event. I don’t like to hear that anymore, because in my 11- to 12-year career, that’s about the fifth 100-year rain event I’ve been witness to, so I think someone needs to recalibrate those measurements. It would be more understandable if the problem had been widespread.”

In the meantime, Sheets said she continues to worry every time it rains.

“I know there are a lot of important issues in the village, but this is No.1 on my worry-bead necklace,” she said.

“Last week when it rained so hard again, my husband and I were driving home from Royal Oak with water at the top of our tires. We were both hysterical — we  didn’t know if we were going to find our basement flooded again.”

Wilson said he and Department of Public Services Director Tom Meszler have since gone back to review the restrictor plate program for catch basins. Restrictor plates are designed to reduce sewer intake flows during heavy rains to prevent overload and flooding.

“They were previously installed on much of the east side, particularly in Acacia District. We did install some on Buckingham, but not this far east, because there’s not a lot of ditching infrastructure and we just haven’t had the flooding problems in this area,” he said.

“Without having ditching, the restrictors would have the impact of  holding the water in the road for a longer period of time, but that is preferable to holding it in the basements. If we don’t find there was an obvious blockage to account for, I do think we’re going to have to go back and look at expanding the restrictor program to that area.”

Wilson said he is also checking with the city of Royal Oak to determine if they experienced similar issues at the time.

Sheets said she hopes the cause will be discovered before any more damage is done.

“I have a beautiful tile floor — right now. I’ve been hearing horror stories from other neighbors about thousands of dollars worth of damage. My husband is an avid collector, and my biggest fear is he’s going to want to move his collections to the first floor,” she joked.

“I’ve lived here for 34 years, and I always intended to go out of here feet first — not floating.”