Residents express anger and frustration at city’s flood response

Over 200 East Germantown residents packed into the Waterview Recreation Center to hear city officials’ plans for addressing the damage from the flooding that has plagued the the neighborhood over the past two weeks.

But as residents’ tempers flared,  officials, who were not using microphones, were drowned out by angry neighbors.

“What are they [Philadelphia Water Department] doing to keep the drains clear?” shouted one man. “You don’t even wash the streets,” yelled an elderly woman.

Reverend Chester Williams, leader of the Chew and Belfield Neighbors Club, erupted in frustration. “You didn’t even close a hole in the street,” he shouted. Williams was referring to an incident where the water and gas company left a gap open to the elements during the hurricane and rainstorm on the 6200 block of Belfield and Mayland.  Rev. Williams said the flooding wouldn’t have been nearly as devastating if the water department had covered the hole.

City officials provided no answers. Without microphones it was difficult to hear comments from the officials, adding to the frustration. Some residents came to the front of the room and asked to reschedule the meeting.

One presenter was loud and clear. Liam O’Keefee, who heads the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, urged residents to apply for FEMA assistance for any damage done by hurricane Irene. “If you had any damage, apply now”.

While homeowners can get FEMA assistance for hurricane damage, federal assistance is not available for damags sustained from tropical storm Lee’s record rainfall. According to, O’Keefee the city is also working with the governor to request that damage from Lee be covered by FEMA as well.

Angela Sumpter applied to FEMA but was denied assistance because her flodding was a result of tropical storm Lee. Sumpter lost four cars to the flood along with everything in her basement. “My washer, dryer, heater, hot water tank, plus we had mud this time so the cleaning process is different. It’s overwhelming,” she said.

Joanne Dahme, General Manager of Public Affairs for the water department maintains that the flooding was unusually severe. event  in East Germantown and that they can’t predict or protect against catastrophic events. “We had four inches of rain within a four hour period,” she said.

According to Dahme, residents who had flooding caused by backwash from drains, faucets or toilets might qualify for help through the water department’s basement protection program.

Despite frustrated residents who felt that the city hasn’t done enough to clean up after the flood, Liam O’Keefee said “”The city has deployed numerous resources to this area, for example to pump out basements, perform structural assessments. There are still clean up operations in the area”.

Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, who organized the meeting along with the Water Department said she plans on scheduling another meeting with a proper PA system soon. Miller said that the information collected at the meeting is just the start. “We needed to know who they are so we can go out there”.

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