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Persistent flooding prompts city to buy house on Worley Street

Monday, December 10, 2012 | 4:56 p.m. CST; updated 8:11 p.m. CST, Monday, December 10, 2012

COLUMBIA — After 38 years of complaints from owners about basement flooding in a house on Worley Street, the City of Columbia has bought the home and plans to knock it down.

The city bought the home at 20 E. Worley St. from Helen Jackman for $87,000 on Oct. 18. Since 1974, the Public Works Department has received many complaints about flooding there.

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"I bought (the house) in good faith as an investment," Jackman said. "The investment didn't pay off." 

Tom Wellman, an engineering specialist with the Public Works Department, said the Jackmans spoke with City Manager Mike Matthes about having the city buy the house and land.

Wellman said the house has a sump pump in the basement that is designed to pump out water and keep the basement dry. Because the house was built in a flood plain, Wellman said, even that strategy has failed to prevent flooding.

The city has tried over the years to address problems with flooding in the neighborhood. The storm drain along Worley Street in front of the house was improved in 1974 and further enhanced in the 1980s. The problem persisted, though.

"In my opinion, it is very unlikely a property owner could ever put in anything that would prevent it from flooding," Wellman said. 

Water enters the house through the sump pump pit, and surface water also enters the home through ground-level windows and the basement door. The basement can take on as much as two feet of water during the worst of the flooding.

Wellman said the basement water also enters the sanitary sewer system through floor drains, which causes the sewer to back up and makes it more likely that other houses in the neighborhood will flood.

Houses that flood tend to degrade faster than others, Wellman said. That's what prompted the city to buy the house.

Public Works spokesman Steven Sapp said the city plans to demolish the house and perhaps create some sort of stormwater retention basin to provide relief for the neighborhood.

Wellman said the cost of solving the problem and keeping the house outweighs the benefit. The basement would have to be closed off and filled with concrete, and the electric wiring would have to be redone. Even then, there's a risk the problem would continue.

The next steps will include contracting someone to remove the house and then deciding whether a retention basin is possible. Wellman believes that the project will move quickly and the house will be removed by January.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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