Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Create Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods

Hartford, Connecticut

Featured image for the project, Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Create Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods

Photo: billandkent Flickr account

Description

The neighborhoods on the north side of Hartford, Connecticut sit just to the west of Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River. Neighborhoods in this area include Clay-Arsenal, Upper Albany, and the North End. Following World War II, these neighborhoods experienced a series of disruptions that led to their downturn. Between the construction of I-84 through the neighborhoods and the loss of manufacturing, much of the area was transformed to accommodate low-income housing. During the riots that followed Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination on April 4, 1968, a fire broke out that leveled the entire commercial strip on the north side of Hartford. Since the late 1960s, North Hartford has faced economic distress, crime, and blighted properties. Social and environmental injustices are rampant throughout these communities, deeply affecting its predominately African American and Latino residents.

Residents in North Hartford neighborhoods are continually facing flooding and sewer back up in their basements. During heavy rains, water floods roads, driveways, lawns and at times can reach a depth of 4 feet in some people’s basements. With the flood waters come a variety of health concerns related to mold outbreaks, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and pathogens. Many people experience asthma as a result of the chronic flood conditions. Check valve/overflow valves have been installed on some homes throughout North Hartford, but residents complain that support from the metropolitan water district has dried up, leaving them without this protection. Majority of residents do not have flood insurance. Additionally, residents are concerned about what impacts a major hurricane could have on their neighborhoods if storm surge were to make its way up the Connecticut River.

The Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ) serves to educate, inform, and empower all citizens of Connecticut affected by environmental injustices. CCEJ would like to better understand the causes of flooding in North Hartford neighborhoods. The organization would like to work with a dedicated hydrologist to investigate the urban flooding, synthesize any available reports and develop next steps or proposed solutions. CCEJ will use their enhanced understanding to have productive interactions with community members and decision-makers both locally and state-wide.

The goal of this Thriving Earth Exchange project is to bring scientific evidence and understanding to the questions and priorities of local residents, so that residents can use that science to make decisions and take actions.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at Texas Organizing Project and with our national partner, Flood Forum USA.

Contact

Sharon Lewis is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice. In addition to working in Hartford on environmental justice issues, Sharon also engages with communities in Bridgeport and New Haven as well as the national group, Climate Justice Alliance. Sharon commits to engaging with the scientific partner by providing local knowledge and strategic direction over the duration of the project.

Scientist Wanted

Sharon seeks a scientific partner to help CCEJ investigate the chronic flood issues that face residents in North Hartford. The work will also include education on floodplains, who is at greatest risk to flooding, and examining the future risk that hurricanes pose to the area and how residents can better prepare in the event of a major storm.

The scientist will also work with the community leads to prepare recommendations for presentation to residents and local government entities.

As an initial first step, a scientist is requested for 2-3 months to work with Sharon to:

  • visit the neighborhoods with the community leaders,
  • examine and aggregate existing hydrological assessments,
  • summarize the flood vulnerabilities,
  • outline and recommend actions that can be taken to improve drainage throughout the neighborhood.

 

These initial steps will provide a foundation and refined scope upon which to shape the remainder of this TEX-FFUSA project.

TEX asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.

 

Timeline and Outcome

Work will begin as soon as possible (November 2018). The first phase of this project will take approximately 2-3 months. Once a refined project scope is identified, the remainder of the project is expected to last 12-16 months.

 

Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Background in hydrology or environmental engineering
  • Experience working on projects that address urban stormwater management
  • Willingness to work with environmental justice communities required
  • Ability to translate difficult science terminology for a lay audience
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • The scientist should be able to visit the community in-person and able to observe the neighborhood with community leaders

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of TEXs’ new cohorts. TEX has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future. TEX is working with twenty of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks.