Taking Action

Homeowner fed up with flooding and damage to his home, blames Petersburg

Taking Action

Petersburg, VA (WRIC-TV) — A Petersburg homeowner claims the city has failed to maintain its storm water system and it’s causing his property to flood.

“When it rained, I had almost three feet of water come across the back year,” said Alonzo Saunders.

Saunders told 8News every time it rains, the Brickhouse Run Stream that runs next to his Washington Street home, backs up and floods his home. Saunders showed us sand, sticks and other debris left in his backyard. He said, “This is debris that has actually washed up to the house.”

The water is damaging his home. The foundation is shifting. Saunders said, “All this washed out. So, this is my foundation right here and there’s nothing here.”

The Petersburg homeowner believes debris and overgrowth, in what is supposed to be part of the city’s storm water drainage system, is clogging the stream. He said, “It’s got so much debris, so much trash, so many obstacles.”

He even showed us what appears to be the remnants of a bridge that collapsed years ago.

“The city never cleaned it up,” said Saunders.

8News has learned the state has told the city it needs to clear the stream. In an email shared with 8News, Virginia’s Director of Dam Safety and Floodplain Management Wendy Howard-Cooper writes: “My team has been working with the city on this and I am waiting on confirmation that the debris was actually removed this week as required.”

Howard-Cooper told 8News the State Department of Conservation and Recreation sent someone out to look at the waterway. She says they found tires and trash and told the city it’s got to go.

“The city has neglected to clean it,” said Saunders. In an email, Joanne Williams, a spokesperson for Petersburg said the city and state department have “discussed a plan to move forward with next steps in solving any possible flooding issues.”

Saunders says the other problem is, there’s no retaining wall on his side of the stream. It crumbled into the water. He said, “You can still see down here where the retaining wall is.” He told us he asked Petersburg to put a new but was told it’s not their responsibility.

Photo: Kerri O’Brien/8News

The homeowner tells us he’s been complaining to the city for two years now. He even filed a claim with the city but it was denied. Petersburg’s insurance provider found “no liability on the part of the City of Petersburg.”

However, an independent engineer hired by Saunders disagrees. The professional engineering company found “The abandoned debris in the creek, the large impervious areas that drain into the creek, the lack of a storm water management system and the City of Petersburg’s failure to maintain the retaining walls, have all contributed to the flooding of the crawl space and damage to the home’s structural members.”

“I feel like I have been done an injustice,” said Saunders. He says he bought the property as an investment and is now losing money on it. He said, “Can’t sell it. I don’t want to rent it because it’s a danger. You got stagnant water out here, mosquitoes.”

Williams says that report from the engineer was never shared with the city. We’re told it has now been forwarded. Since 8News started asking questions about Saunders’ flooding problems we’ve been told public works is sending an engineer to the site next week.

Williams also told us, “The City is going to work with the property owner in trying to determine what may be causing any water issues, as well as continue to work with DCR.”

Petersburg officials have publicly acknowledged in the past the city has storm water management issues and we’re told Petersburg is working on a plan.

Saunders had a plan for them. He said, “First and foremost fix the drainage problem, after that, fix my house.”

In the meantime, The state’s Director for Safety and Floodplain Management told 8News Saunders home is sitting in a floodplain. She said, “that’s a recipe for disaster.”

She said there’s no quick fix and some of the structures in the area may need to be removed. They told us the department (DCR) knows Petersburg is aware it has a flooding problem and is aware it needs to build a solid plan with funding to fix it. Howard-Cooper said there is federal FEMA funding they city could apply

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