CAHOKIA HEIGHTS, Ill — Metro East leaders are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help find a long-term fix to decades of flooding problems.
For more than 50 years Florastine Jethro has fought to keep the flood water out of her Cahokia Heights home.
“We’ve been having problems with this water sneaking down this way and getting all in the yards,” said Florastine Jethro. “It stinks in the front when it sits there too long.”
Over the years the problem has gotten so bad she’s taken drastic measures.
“We have to throw Purex out here in the water to kill the smell and the germs,” said Jethro.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the solution is simple in Cahokia Heights and East St. Louis, where community leaders have been told to clean out the Edgemount, Stagger, and WPA ditches and any nearby culverts while reactivating the State Street Pump with more capacity.
“We could have 100 pump stations on this Harding Ditch, and it still wouldn’t work,” said East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern.
“I could have an excavator here for the next ten years silting this ditch,” said Rick Fancher, Executive Director of Metro East Sewer District. “As soon as they were done they would have to start over at the other end, and we don’t have the manpower or the funding to do that.”
Fancher said part of the problem can be attributed to runoff from cities like Edwardsville, Belleville, and O’Fallon which use the Metro East Sewer District system, but aren’t required to pay a penny.
“We know that the infrastructure is going to cost tens of millions of dollars to repair,” said Fancher. “We have no funding source, nor do the communities involved have a funding source from that.”
That’s why they’re asking the Army Corps of Engineers to pick up the tab.
“If we were a white community in St. Clair or Madison Co. this problem would’ve been taken care of,” said Cahokia Heights Mayor Curtis McCall Sr.
“We’re just waiting on them to come on and fix what needs to be fixed,” said Jethro.
A number of residents in the Terrace Avenue area of East St. Louis, which is extremely flood prone, have expressed interested in federal buyouts due to the flooding in the area, but at this point those discussions have yet to pay off.