Ask Roberta

By Roberta Kleinman, BAPA Coordinator of Property Preservation Services

Q: What can I do to correct a major drainage problem that causes my yard and adjoining neighbors’ properties to flood whenever there is a hard rain?

A:  Depending on the type of soil in any particular parcel of land, standing water may remain in a yard for days once the ground becomes completely saturated. When there’s nowhere else for the water to go, it may eventually enter your basement through cracks in the foundation. Fortunately, many major drainage problems caused by extended rainfall, including those severe enough to impact multiple properties, can be corrected given the right professional assistance.

Surface drainage issues will become of increasing concern in the years to come as area homeowners are strongly encouraged to disconnect their downspouts from the city sewer system.  In older neighborhoods such as ours, for years homes were built so that water runoff from roofs was directed into the sewers. This practice is no longer permitted because of the municipal expense of processing all that extra rain water.  The city of Chicago and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District have distributed rain barrels to residents as a way to incentivize homeowners to disconnect their downspouts, but what happens when it rains long enough and hard enough that your rain barrels fill up and overflow onto your already saturated lawn?

Enter a non-profit Chicago-based organization named the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), which provides Chicago residents with helpful advice on how to install green solutions to absorb the water in an environmentally friendly way.  Check out the portions of their website that deal with urban flooding mitigation and their RainReady initiative at CNT’s mission is to develop “policies and practices that help residents and entire communities plan for weather events associated with global climate change.”

The City of Chicago and other municipalities partner with CNT to solve persistent local flooding problems.  One solution BAPA has directly benefited from was replacing the blacktop pavement in its parking lot with permeable paving stones that allow rainwater to be absorbed by the soil underneath rather than winding up in the city sewer system.

For extreme volumes of standing water, CNT may recommend installation of a Naturalized Detention Basin, which offers a real possibility of providing simultaneous relief to multiple adjacent residential parcels.

For homeowners who don’t have extreme drainage problems the solution could be as simple as installing a French drain or two. Use the services of a professional contractor or consider doing the work yourself with the help of good instructions.  Acceptable drainage solutions do not entail redirecting standing water onto a neighbor’s property.  Also, remember to check for underground utilities by calling the Chicago Excavation Alert Line (the “Digger Hotline”) at 312-744-7000 at least 48 hours before beginning any excavation.  If digging strictly on your own private property, no city permit is required.

Disclaimer: Opinions presented here are the author’s alone, and may not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Beverly Area Planning Association. Be advised that the author of this column is not a licensed attorney. The information contained in this article is general in nature and is not intended to, and should not, be relied upon by you, the reader, as personal legal advice or a legal opinion concerning your particular situation. The information also may not necessarily reflect the most current statutory or municipal code developments. You should always seek assistance from a qualified legal professional and/or other knowledgeable real estate experts when dealing with matters affecting your residential property.

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