Flooding leaves raw sewage in basements, frustrated Crystal Lake residents

CRYSTAL LAKE – Michelle Coss is not a mathematician, but she’s pretty sure the city’s equation does not add up when it comes to flooding.

“I’ve been told about 100-year floods three times in the last 10 years,” the North Shore Drive resident said. “Unless I’m misunderstanding something, how old am I here?”

Not 300 years old, which is why Coss and her neighbors along the 800 block of North Shore Drive in Crystal Lake are frustrated and left wondering why they had inches of raw sewage in their basements and crawlspaces from the June 26 storms when the city installed a culvert in the fall to ease the flooding problems.

For Margaret Moore, the recent flooding resulted in 7 inches of raw sewage in her basement and already more than $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs. Robin Reed also lost furniture and items in her basement.

Michael Thinnes had it as bad as anyone, losing all of his recent renovations including new drywall and the crib, clothes and toys for his 3-month-old. He also was left with black stains on floors and walls from sewage water that filled his basement and reached up the staircase.

Thinnes already is facing $20,000 in damage and has a dumpster full of unusable belongings in his driveway.

Compounding the problem is the inability for the North Shore Drive residents to receive insurance. The private companies said that because sewage water damaged the property, it was a city issue, and residents have not yet heard back from city officials on whether city insurance will provide coverage.

“We understand our surroundings and we know it’s hit everybody hard everywhere, but it is getting progressively worse here when the city said it would get better,” Thinnes said. “At least declare us a floodplain so we can get flood insurance.”

Jim Moore, fire chief and emergency manager for Crystal Lake, said the city reviews all claims submitted and forwards them to the insurance company before responding.

Moore also said the city knows of 81 properties that had water damage, and inspectors have been collecting information in hopes of obtaining Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. The process can be lengthy because the county must collect information from all communities before sending it on to the state, which then forwards it to the federal government.

“There is no timetable, but the sooner we submit it, the better,” he said, adding that it could take more than 60 days. “The impact to our residents is what we’re concerned about.”

Thinnes, who also serves as president of the Lake Street Beach Association, said the group of residents near the lake were considering a class-action lawsuit against the city to force change, though it is not the desired outcome.

Residents are convinced flooding problems are caused by a faulty sewer system and any improvements the city has pursued have mitigated flooding on nearby roads while making it worse for homes.

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