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Northshore neighbors receive update on raw sewage study

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Homeowners in four different South Bend neighborhoods are worried about more potential flooding and backflow occurring at their properties.

Some have had repeated problems of raw sewage backing up into their homes and want the city to the something about it.

Monday evening, the South Bend sewer and flood findings were presented at the City-County Building.

The findings come after residents of the Northshore Triangle Area were dealing with raw sewage coming into their homes after the record flooding this past February and March.

Imagine having your bathtub, toilet, and more overflowing with raw sewage.

That’s what happened during the record flooding in February to people in the Northshore Triangle neighborhoods in South Bend.

Neighbors now want the city to make improvements to keep it from happening again.

During the presentation at the City-County Building in downtown South Bend, residents were told that over 8 inches of rain fell in February.

Most of the rainfall happening in the span of just 3 days, but that wasn’t enough to make residents feel any better.

“They talked a lot about magnitude of events, but this is beyond magnitude,” said Dawn Hopkins, who lives in the Northshore Triangle. “This is happening more often in our neighborhood. Some of our neighbors experience backflow events with minor, minor rain events.”

The study, presented by Lawson-Fisher Associates, looked at sewers in the Northsore Triangle, Riverside Drive, Keller Park, and Emerson Avenue areas.

Residents from all these neighborhoods, one after another, voiced their concerns to city officials Monday evening.

“I think a lot of the onus is on the owners of the houses, where they’re recommending these backflow valves,” said Hopkins. “Well, we did install one after the first event in 2016. It failed us in 2018. It was heartbreaking.”

Dawn Hopkins, and many others, were very vocal with their concerns.

Documents provided by Lawson-Fisher showed that only 20% of the backflow prevention devices functioned properly for residents in the Northshore Triangle who responded to the survey.

Leaving many in February frustrated, dealing with sewage in their homes.

“I really love the city of South Bend and it’s hard for me to tell people to move to the city of South Bend when we’re seeing that this isn’t as isolated as we originally thought, where there is a lot of neighborhoods experiencing backflow,” said Hopkins. “And that’s just something you don’t wish upon your worse enemy.”

Now, residents are not only hoping that sewer systems can be improved, but that the St. Joseph River can be protected from raw sewage, too.

“This is a public health hazard, for sure,” said Hopkins. “It can’t be good for the ecology of the river.”

The presenters did say that some FEMA grants are available for residents that may qualify.

The documents also show that disconnecting downspouts and addressing cracks in basements can really help with the stress put on the sewer system.

Another meeting will follow in a few weeks, but no date has been set for it yet.

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