Heavy rain has contributed to recent local flooding

Mother Nature has caused flooding in parts of Milford during the past few months, including areas where flooding doesn’t traditionally occur, but there are some things residents can do to help the situation.

Steve Johnson, Milford open space manager and acting assistant public works director, spoke at a meeting of the group Milford Speaks Out on Sunday about issues facing the city. Flooding dominated the discussion.

Heavy rain has been the key cause of local flooding. Johnson said 22 inches of rain fell between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, when the average is 10 to 10.5 inches of rain for that period.

Johnson said the double than normal rainfall caused neighborhood flooding similar to that caused by Hurricane Sandy. A nor'easter at the end of October, for example, caused major flooding along New Haven Avenue, Broadway, Gulf Street, Bayview Beach and other parts of the city. Fire Chief Douglas Edo said at the time that all the usual spots flooded, but there was much more water.

There are a number of coastline resilience planning projects in the works at areas including Walnut Beach, Wildermere Beach, Crescent Beach and Gulf Street to help mitigate future coastal flooding. And on Beachland Avenue, for example, a project was recently completed to re-grade the road, not to prevent flooding but to force flood water to drain off the road, Johnson said.

At Gulf Beach, there are plans to replace a rocky groin to help prevent sand erosion that threatens the snack stand and road. Johnson said that project is in a re-design stage because the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection did not approve the original plan.

But in addition to severe storms and heavier than normal rain, clogged storm drains and catch basins also contribute to the city’s flooding woes.

There are 8,000 catch basins that drain out to wetlands, rivers and Long Island Sound. Vacuuming those catch basins is a “significant task,” Johnson said.

The area near Woodruff Road, where Plan B Burger Bar is located, saw significant flooding in recent months when sticks and branches that a resident had cut made their way into the Tumble Brook Stream, which flows into a 36-inch drain pipe near Plan B. The material clogged the drain, causing a large part of the Boston Post Road to be closed due to flooding.

City and state officials worked together to clear the clog.

Johnson said residents can help by clearing the tops of the grates near their homes of leaves and other debris, and by not putting grass clippings and other yard waste into catch basins.

Local business owner Tessa Marquis said businesses, especially in downtown, can help too, by making sure the results of their landscaping don’t wind up in the streets and the catch basins.

Johnson said sometimes business owners are not aware of their landscapers’ practices.

On Broad Street, for example, “landscapers are taking meticulous care,” but if he looks in the catch basins, he sees that lawn material was pushed there. Johnson said he has a list of these matters to discuss with business owners.

Johnson also said he is hoping to see more outreach and education to the public, letting people know not to sweep leaves and grass clippings into the catch basins. Some unusual things have also been found in them, such as dog waste bags.

“It’s more frequent than you would like to think,” Johnson said.

When there are items like dog feces and motor oil in the catch basins, the material vacuumed out has to be treated as hazardous waste, and that is more costly for the city to dispose of, Johnson said.