Schenectady County

Irene: More water, frustration for swamped Rotterdam homeowners

When floodwater began washing over Lock Street into Norman Torres’ silt-filled cellar, he thought ab

When floodwater began washing over Lock Street into Norman Torres’ silt-filled cellar, he thought about dropping his hammer and giving up.

Heavy rain Thursday evening surged into the neighborhood, which then caused a town-operated pump system to lose power. Once the pump system failed, the already-flood ravaged homes faced yet another wave of water.

For Torres, the sight was heartbreaking. But after a few fl eeting moments of doubt, the determined homeowner carried on with the task at hand: Rebuilding.

“The last thing we wanted to see was more water,” he said Friday. “But we’ve got to hold our ground.”

Still, Torres and other residents trying recover from the fl ooding brought by Irene last month could use a little help staying dry. Primarily, they want the town to fi nally do something about the pump system that hasn’t worked properly in decades.

In times of heavy rain, three pumps are supposed to move runoff collecting in a basin beneath the street through a pipe and into a section of the old Erie Canal basin. But residents maintain the system is illequipped to handle anything other than a modest rain. For instance, Torres said the pipe is too small to carry large quantities of water away. Also, the power console for the pump system is located only a few inches above the street, meaning even a small flood will trip its circuit breaker.

That was the case Thursday, Torres said. A downpour overwhelmed the system, tripped the pumps’ circuit breaker and then filled the street with runoff from Route 5S.

“The system is not doing its job,” he said.


Flooding on Lock Street has bedeviled residents and town offi cials for years. In September 2005, Rotterdam allocated $30,000 to install a larger pipe, a new pump and a generator.

Public Works coordinator Michael Griesemer was confident the repairs would make fl ooding a thing of the past on Lock Street. But a storm less than three years later led to a new round of fl ooding, which residents blamed on a faulty control panel town offi cials neglected to fi x.

Flooding from Irene also wiped out the system. Highway Superintendent James Longo said the town spent $7,000 to repair the pump system and it seemed to be operation before Thursday’s rain.

“They were running fine and apparently they’re not any more,” he said Thursday while responding to the fl ooding.

Longo couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. Deputy Supervisor Robert Godlewski said he was aware of the issue but couldn’t fi nd out any additional information Friday. “It’s the same old issue,” he said.

Torres is trying to look on the bright side. He speculated that the flooding from Irene and Thursday’s thunderstorm may fi nally convince the town to take a comprehensive look at the problems Lock Street faces on an almost yearly basis.

But until then, Torres said he’ll keep working. And he’s got a lot of work to do.

The two-story home that’s been in his family for nearly a century was under more than 10 feet of water during last month’s storm. The floodwater blasted out a side wall and destroyed both his porches.

Today, the home is only a shell. All of the drywall and fl oors have been removed; volunteers helped splinter what was left of the front and rear porches, taking parts of the walls in the process and leaving a gaping hole through the middle of the structure.

Like much of Rotterdam Junction, the small Lock Street neighborhood seems desolate on most days. Mosquitoes swarm the street, hatched from pools of stagnant water left from the original fl ooding.

Torres won’t give up. He’s determined to show the neighborhood that it can rebuild and return to normal, even if he has to bail his basement another time before he fi nishes.

“I want to show them it can be done.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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