The Metro-East Sanitary District filed suit at the Madison County Courthouse on Friday, enjoining the city of Granite City in an action aimed at preserving its legal remedies in response to a similar suit filed by a group of Granite City taxpayers last week.
Metro-East Sanitary District Board of Commissioners Chairman Charles Brinza said Wednesday that the suit filed last week by residents flooded in the Aug. 12 event was a case of misplaced accountability, as more than 9 inches of rain pounded the American Bottoms on Aug. 12.
"Please understand, we all feel bad when people's lives are impacted by flooding,” Brinza said in an MESD press release. “MESD was created to address levees on the Mississippi, but we feel MESD systems actually handled the rain event better than expected; less than five years ago, Pontoon Beach and Mitchell were flooded by the same amount of rain over a longer time span. Mitchell and Pontoon Beach residents were unable to flush their toilets for a week in April 2017."
MESD attributes that success to maintaining the level of Horseshoe Lake at sustainable levels and through pump repairs, which made doing so possible. Executive Director Stephen Adler stated that the level of Horseshoe Lake on the day in question made it all possible.
"We pumped most of the summer to control the lake levels,” Adler said. “Water drains by gravity, and the lowest point in the area is Horseshoe Lake. If you control the lowest point in an area, you control the drainage if the adjoining channels are clear. The North Pump Station pumps were all operational on the day of the event."
Furthermore, MESD states the flood was an exceptional event, and that adjoining channels weren’t clear. MESD maintains that the city of Granite City was responsible for conveying it water so it could be drained.
" MESD can only process what water it receives, and MESD owns less than 1 percent of the linear feet of storm sewers in Granite City,” Adler said. “In addition, Granite City holds the only Environmental Protection Agency permit to drain storm water on behalf of the city".
Brinza stated MESD has photographs from the day of the flood, including photographs of Granite City infrastructure. He added that many storm sewers had been paved over by the city, resulting in localized flooding on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.
In the suit, MESD also states that the majority of flooding was related to the sanitary sewer system, owned in full by the city of Granite City, which was overwhelmed by a locally accepted practice of discharging sump pumps into the sanitary sewer system, a practice which only pumps the same storm water into adjacent homes, now mixed with toxic sanitary effluent. This practice also violates the state plumbing code and EPA regulations. In Granite City, the mayor also serves as the director of public works, and as such is responsible for maintaining its sewer and storm drainage lines.