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Lawsuit Alleges Granite City Paved Over Its Own Sewers, Leading To August Floods

A "freak" storm dumped 9 inches of rain on Granite City on Aug. 12, 2019, flooding homes and businesses.
Belleville News-Democrat

GRANITE CITY — Another lawsuit has been filed in the wake of August’s flash floods in Granite City — this one aimed at the city itself.

The Metro East Sanitary District is suing Granite City in answer to a similar lawsuit filed by city taxpayers last week.

The suits stem from flash flooding in Granite City in August, which left some residents’ homes, businesses and cars damaged or destroyed after 9 ½ inches of rain fell over the city in a short period.

In its complaint, the sanitary district said photographs of Granite City infrastructure taken the day of the flood show that many of the city’s storm sewers have been paved over. In November, Adler said that results in localized flooding on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.

The suit also states that the “majority” of flooding was related to the sanitary sewer system, owned by Granite City, which MESD alleges was already overwhelmed by discharging sump pumps.
Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer was not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit, but an official in his office said the city was not aware of the lawsuit.

A lawsuit filed in November by the Gori Law Firm accused MESD of negligence during the flooding. At the time, the MESD Executive Director Steve Adler said Granite City was to blame for the flooding.

MESD Board of Commissioners Charles Brinza called the lawsuit against MESD was a case of “misplaced accountability.”

“Please understand, we all feel bad when people’s lives are impacted by flooding,” he said in a statement. “MESD was created to address levees on the Mississippi, but we feel MESD systems actually handled the rain event better than expected.”

MESD’s lawsuit called the flooding an “exceptional event” and maintained that Granite City was responsible for making sure adjoining channels between the city and MESD were clean so water could be drained.

“MESD can only process what water it receives, and MESD owns less than 1% of the linear feet of storm sewers in Granite City,” he said. “In addition, Granite City holds the only Environmental Protection Agency permit to drain storm water on behalf of the city.”

In November, Adler called the Gori Law Firm’s lawsuit “politically motivated.” He alleged that Ron Motil, an attorney with the Gori Law Firm, was filing the suit due to Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler’s decision to remove him from the Southwestern Flood Protection District.

Motil later said told The Belleville News-Democrat that was impossible because he had not been notified about his apparent removal from the board. He said the accusation was misdirection from MESD.

Gori’s lawsuit accused MESD of negligence during the flooding that lead to the “wiping out” of “generations of savings.” The law firm invited residents affected by the flooding to join the lawsuit as well.

Motil was later removed from the Southwestern Illinois Flood Protection District after almost 10 years on its board. He said he believed it was retaliation for his firm’s lawsuit.

Kavahn Mansouri is a reporter for the Belleville News Democrat, a reporting partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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