Credit: Town of Needham

The Department of Public Works (DPW) reported to the Select Board Tuesday that it has identified more than 200 town residences and businesses that were damaged by the Aug. 8 storm.

“We’ve really seen how devastating these extreme weather events can be,” said Carys Lustig, director of the DPW.

Lustig said the DPW has been gathering information from SeeClickFix and other means to identify where the town’s stormwater system was impacted by the short duration/high intensity microburst that dropped more than 6 inches of rain on some parts of Needham.

“The impact was pretty spread out,” she said. “It wasn’t clustered in any particular area. We have found four or five clusters where it impacted four or five or six homes, but for the most part it’s one or two homes in each individual location.”

The DPW has identified 43 neighborhoods where two or more properties were impacted, as well as 55 residences that did not have neighbors who were impacted.

“This tells us those properties flooded based on specific factors for that particular property — the orientation of the property, the design of the property or maybe the drainage on that one specific property. It was not necessarily an overall system surcharge. We didn’t see entire roads, for example, that were flooded.”

In the aftermath of the event, the DPW used a camera system to inspect its stormwater infrastructure. The system employs a small remote robot that is deployed from the DPW’s closed circuit TV truck.

“So far we have not found any failures in our system during the event,” Lustig told the Select Board.

She said the DPW’s post-flood effort is far from complete, and the department remains committed to obtaining information from residents. She said members of the water, sewer and drains staff are currently triaging with property owners.

Lustig requested that residents not use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) but contact the DPW directly.

“The (FOIA) requests we are receiving are quite onerous and they are causing town staff to spend a significant amount of time digging up records or, to be honest, proving there aren’t records,” she said. “This is instead of working on trying to remediate issues related to the flooding.”

There is no shortage of residents with issues and questions. At the outset of the Select Board meeting, two residents took advantage of the public comment period to request a more proactive town response to the issues raised by the flooding.

Hawthorne Avenue resident Xuan Dong reported residents in his neighborhood have over the past several decades experienced significant flooding and property damage from stormwater backup and overflow from manholes, especially manholes located in private lots. Lustig said the next wave of flood-related activity will very likely involve working with residents such as Dong and those who have insurance–related questions, as well as those with concerns about how well the town’s systems will protect their homes from future major weather events.

She said DPW staff will continue to triage, and they plan to hold multiple neighborhood meetings. Lustig cautions, however, that this will be an extended effort.

“This process will not be a quick turnaround,” she told the Select Board. “Mitigation strategies for the most part are fairly intensive and involve expensive repairs, either on private property or improving the town’s drainage system.

“These repairs are not going to happen in the next six months.”

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