POLO — Polo officials are working to have the city declared a disaster area after 9 to 12 inches of rain last week left dozens of homes with flood damage.
“It was literally Niagara Falls coming out of our toilet,” Janette Krontz said of the Aug. 7 and 8 storms’ impact. “We had 3 to 4 feet [of water] in our basement, and we’ve never had leakage in ours.”
The flooding was so bad a crack formed in their upstairs living room and “literally lifted our whole house up,” she said.
Krontz’s comments came during the public comment period of the Polo City Council’s Aug. 15 regular meeting. At least seven members of the public spoke, seeking answers regarding what the city could offer in terms of assistance with their damaged property. The discussion lasted about 30 minutes.
Alderperson Randy Schoon prefaced the public comment period by recapping what city council members already have done, and are doing, to help.
“I’ll tell you right square, your insurance company has probably already told all of you, there’s no [coverage],” Schoon told meeting attendees. “I guarantee you, the city’s insurance is going to tell you that same thing. We’ve been down this road before. When you get that kind of water, that kind of rain, there ain’t nowhere for it to go. And once it fills them pipes, it’s game on.”
City officials made calls to state Reps. Tony McCombie and Tom Demmer, and state Sen. Brian Stewart, Schoon explained. McCombie, Demmer and Stewart directed the city to Ogle County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Tom Richter and told city officials to get Richter a list of impacted residents and as much supporting documentation as possible.
As of Tuesday morning, City Clerk Sydney Bartelt had a list of more than 35 Polo residents who experienced basement flooding on Aug. 8 to send to Richter.
Ogle County will have to declare the area a disaster area before the Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency will step in to assist, Bartelt said.
Those whose homes or businesses were flooded should take pictures and keep all receipts, Schoon said.
“Have a paper trail so you can say, ‘This is what I spent,’” he said.
Dumpster for use by those impacted by flooding
During the Aug. 15 meeting, city council members came to a consensus that the city would pay for a large dumpster where people who experienced flooding in homes or businesses can dispose of damaged or destroyed items.
The dumpster is located in the parking lot of 113 E. Colden St. and was put in place Tuesday afternoon.
If anyone has questions, or would like to be added to the list of those impacted that will be submitted to Ogle County, contact Polo City Hall at 815-946-3514.
Why sanitary sewers also flooded
Rain usually drains into storm sewer pipes, but when there’s basement flooding or standing water on streets, it infiltrates the sanitary sewer system, Public Works Director Kendall Kyker said.
People tend to try to squeegee water into floor drains when a basement floods, and those floor drains are hooked up to the sanitary sewer system, he explained.
The Colden Street Project — a $3.2 million storm sewer improvement project encompassing about 10.5 blocks of Polo’s downtown business district and residential neighborhoods — is meant to help alleviate standing water on Division Avenue caused by torrential rain events. Division Avenue is the name of Illinois Route 26 within Polo city limits.
The Colden Street Project will “help tremendously” once it’s complete, Kyker said. But, in the meantime, that water is pouring right into the sanitary sewers through the tiny holes in manhole covers meant to open them, he said.
“It’s just like turning a faucet on and leaving it run,” Kyker said.
Another reason the sanitary sewers overflowed is because of illegal pump hookups, Schoon said. The city has been working for some time on checking hookups in each house to ensure they’re done properly, he said.
However, Schoon said, even he will try to squeegee water into his floor drain to get rid of it when there’s flooding like there was on Aug. 8.
“That’s what most of it is — floor drains,” Kyker said. “When you get nine or 10 or however many basements, the water goes to the floor drain and the [sanitary sewer] pipes fill immediately.”
That’s why the Krontzes toilet was overflowing, he noted.
Kyker, who lives on the opposite side of town from the Krontzes, said the 8 inches of water in his basement couldn’t leave through his floor drain because the sanitary sewer pipes were full.
On a normal day, 250,000 to 300,000 gallons of water pass through the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Schoon said. On days like Aug. 8, 3 million gallons of wastewater are being processed.