Engineers from BETA Engineering dropped a bombshell on property owners around Tanyard Brook last Wednesday: A successful phase two project completion cannot promise an end to the area’s flooding issues.
Of the 75 people who own property along the Tanyard Brook from Garfield Avenue to the reservoir on State Street, 25 of them accepted BETA Engineering’s invitation to attend a meeting at Bristol’s Town Hall on Wednesday night. While Kevin Aguiar, a BETA engineer, explained the conceptual plans for phase two based on data collected over the past 10 years, residents retold their horror stories from the March 2010 flooding, skeptical that the plans laid before them would do anything to prevent future flooding.
“It’s not the brook that’s causing the flooding, it’s the storm drains,” said John D’Alessio, a Collins Street resident.
His wife Elizabeth, brought with her a photo album filled with pictures of water-damaged appliances, contaminated food and other items destroyed after heavy rains caused water to fill their basement with 5 feet of water and raw sewage. Ms. D’Alessio said the damage to their property totaled $40,000, none of which was covered by FEMA or the town.
Three years later, the memory still haunts her.
“When it rains like that I can’t sleep. I don’t know what I’ll wake up to,” she said.
With phase one of the Tanyard Brook project now complete, Mr. Aguiar said that the new culvert that runs from Garfield Street to the outflow at Walker’s Cove on Hope Street is working as expected. The former stone culvert has been relined to increase its capacity and the tidal gate allows the brook to drain into the harbor even at high tide.
Using a map of the project area to illustrate phase two, Mr. Aguiar said that to collect detailed data, workers would need access to private properties within the project area.
“We’re going through a lot of private property,” Mr. Aguiar said of phase two. “It’s only going to work if we get your cooperation.”
In the coming weeks, engineers will begin to plot the exact location of the subterranean brook, proximity of homes, garages, swimming pools and other structures, as well as landscaping and other characteristics.
“When you have 15 feet between two houses and you’re trying to put an 8-foot box between them, you have to take all that into consideration,” Mr. Aguiar said.
When the 4,500-foot culvert was originally designed and constructed before the 1960s, Tanyard Brook was intended to handle runoff from a 10-year storm event. Since then, the town has grown and buildings and concrete surfaces have replaced woodlands that helped minimize runoff. Given the physical constraints of area, Mr. Aguiar said that there isn’t enough room to increase the culvert to manage that of a 25, 50 or 100-year storm.
For Jennifer O’Connell, a Collins Street resident, ever since March 2010 her home has been subject to repeated flooding from the Tanyard Brook.
“I never had that problem since that first storm. Now I have it all the time,” she said. “At this point when it happens, I’m in tears.”
Once the details are collected, Mr. Aguiar said the engineers can provide the town with “viable solutions and recommendations to move forward.” But even a successful phase two doesn’t promise to end the area’s flooding woes.
“The problems are not going to go away,” Mr. Aguiar said. “We are going to try to address issues in the problem area.”
Mr. D’Alessio granted the engineering firm permission to access his property to collect data for the project, but that came with a caveat.
“I’ll never go through that again,” he said of his 2010 experience. “I’ll just abandon the house.”
A second public meeting will be scheduled to accommodate property owners who were unable to make the July 24 meeting.