Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rainy Days in May

I'd like to propose a a new metric by which to measure extreme rain events: the number of times the sewer backs up into my basement in any given month. Usually this number equals 0. This month, May 2011, this number equals 2 (so far).

Last night, with up to 2" of rain falling in an hour and a half in Lancaster City, the sewer main that runs through my basement backed up -- again -- and filled it with about 8" of brackish water.

Figure 1. Note the firehose-like quality of the water gushing into my basement.

And here I thought I was clever building heavy duty shelves after the last sewer overflow. I know the water hit the 8" mark because my lowest shelf weighed in at exactly 7.5". 8" of water can really float some stuff, let me tell you....

Hopefully, this time, there will be no actual sewage. Crossing my fingers as the water recedes.

UPDATE: Someone just brought to my attention a column by Jack Brubaker ("The Scribbler") headlined "Lancaster built on a wolf-infested swamp?", in which the Scribbler says that yes, in fact, downtown Lancaster City was once a wolf-infested swamp. Explains a lot, doesn't it? They drained the swamp and cut down all the trees in order to expand the city way back in 1745. Quoting from the column:

"But central Lancaster remained filled with a considerable amount of water. Substantial streams ran down Queen and Water streets. Springs proliferated; some of them are still flowing."

Yeah, through my basement!

I humbly suggest that filling in wetlands (what they used to call "land reclamation", as if the wetland snuck in in the dark of the night) is a really bad idea. Flooding basements with sewage is the least of it. This bad idea points to the root cause of our troubles with water these days: we think we can control it, when ultimately it has much more to say about the nature of our existence than we have to say about its. This is why filling in wetlands is "land reclamation," why modern human settlements are built like shields rather than sponges, why we cover up streams and springs rather than accepting them as an ineluctable feature of the landscape, and why we mix our effluent (human [shit], non-human animal [shit] and industrial [toxic waste]) with water, rather than recycling it, as the rest of nature does.

1 comment:

Susan Norris said...

I feel your pain! My basement flooded twice in the last month. Apparently there used to be a stream one lot over which was covered over for a street. You can still see the remnants about 3 houses away: just a little trickle... and the rest creating a high water table. (I don't think we had wolves, tho!)