The Great Flood

I've been living in Westlake for 20 years now. Never did I think my investment, my life savings in my home would be in jeopardy. On Feb. 28 2011, at about 4:30 a.m., my basement began to fill with sewage from the floor drain connected to the sanitary sewer. 

I understand many other people have had to deal with this as well. I tried to go back to sleep, but the fumes were awful so I had to check into a local hotel for a week. Have I been spoiled? Am I asking too much to have a sanitation system that does not fill my basement with sewage? Apparently so. 

Had I known I was living in a mismanaged sewage area, I might have purchased elsewhere. Was anyone else notified by the city that poor management may fill your basement with sewage? Three times in the past six years this has occurred. Luckily I have not remodeled my basement yet and so only lost a washer and dryer. 

Have others lost more? Of course. And now the city of Westlake is asking residents to accept a solution which will involve refraining from using any modern convenience which discharges sewage – showering, washing dishes, washing clothes, using the toilet, cleaning, etc., during a rain storm. I can see the sellers’ disclosure now: “You may have to wait until it stops raining to shower, wash clothes or dishes, or relieve yourself, or your basement may fill with sewage. But, we can’t say for certain when this will occur, or even if it will occur, just be vigilant.”

I know that when life gives you lemons, you are supposed to make lemonade. But what should one make when life fills your basement with sewage?

It is clear to me that the sewage system in this area, which consists of the collection system (all the piping underground) and the Rocky River Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), has been poorly managed. The collection system is managed by each individual city (Westlake, Bay Village, Fairview Park and Rocky River) and the WWTP by a managing committee consisting of individuals from each of the four cities. 

Unfortunately, these two interrelated systems are managed separately and independently – and did I mention, poorly (but they have kept expenditures to a minimum)? And in case anyone is wondering how I have arrived at this conclusion – I have met with and spoken with the mayor of Westlake, the city engineer and the supervisor of the WWTP, and I am an engineer.

Many modifications have been made to the WWTP with no analysis of what the modifications will do to the overall system – only the result required by the EPA. And each city (some more than others) has grown and added users to the collection system with no regard that the effect the growth will have on the system. And the cities (at least Westlake) refuse to acknowledge that a problem exists (probably the result of the city’s law department issuing a gag order so as not to implicate the city managers in the mismanagement of the sewage system). 

So it is up to all of us to force our city managers (mayor and city council) to publicly acknowledge this problem and find a solution. Please meet, call, write or email your council representative and mayor until we get a solution.

Gotta go now... it’s raining. Have to check my basement.

– Paul Makuh, Westlake

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Volume 3, Issue 7, Posted 3:27 PM, 04.05.2011