St. Botolph Neighborhood Association

Neighborhood Meeting Minutes

September 15, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Susan Bailis Center

SBNA hosted a follow up meeting on Wednesday 15th September with officials from Boston Water & Sewer in regards to the original flooding, which occurred on July 10th.  Since our meeting on July 29th, there were two more incidents of flooding on August 5th and 25th.  Given three such '100 year' events in such proximity, residents were skeptical of the explanation that this was a freak occurrence. However, again, evidence provided by BW&S indicates that the entire sewer system was overwhelmed in the sudden downfall that brought up to 2" of rain in 35 minutes on the 10th and 1" in 15 minutes on the 5th. (The 25th is still being researched.) Why the city is suddenly experiencing such record breaking rains in such a brief window is not clear.  It is also not confirmed that the existing system is operating correctly and free of blockages or other defects which requires further analysis and review by the operational department of BW&S.

BW&S reported that the MBTA has agreed for the first time that storm drainage system could be pumped through their system.  This agreement will allow for final designs to be developed.  This project would remove the storm water from the sewer systems in the streets and alleys abutting the SWC park and into large basins installed below grade.  The water would seep from these basins into the ground to replenish the ground water levels to protect the pilings on which all our residents are built.  In the case of when rainfall exceeds the catch basin's capacity, overflow would be pumped into the MBTA system not the sewer system.    While it may assist in decreasing flooding in smaller storms, it would not prevent flooding in major storms such as those outlined here. Funding for this project is not yet available.

After listening to the presentation and reviewing the overall data presented, Bob Chervincky, President, Interstate Waste Water, believes that the system is not designed to handle 100-year storms. In fact, the system is designed to handle only 10-year storms.  This means that flooding at some point is inevitable.  Bob, a waste water engineer specialist who was hired by the SBNA to attend the meeting and advice residents, recommends that the only way for residents to protect their properties is to install back flow valves.  BW&S also pointed out that this is a building code violation, not to have backflow valves and those properties not up to code risk having water shut off to their building, though they admit that is unlikely and a last resort.

Larry Cook from New Hope Construction who has worked in a large number of buildings in our neighborhood presented and demonstrated several models of back flow valves.  Options include smaller units attached to individual drains such as showers, sinks and toilets.  There is also the option of a larger unit that might handle an entire bathroom or whole house with models that can be installed either inside or outside the building.  These are relatively simple devises designed with a flap that shuts down when water attempts to reverse direction.  It does require that the valve be inspected on a regular basis and the flap needs to be replaced to ensure a snug fit every few years; this can be done yourself or by a professional.

We were delighted to have City Councilor Chuck Turner, for our district and Will Onuoha from the Mayor's office attend the meeting.  Both pledged their support and assistance in ensuring the system is working properly and the SBNA will follow up as discussed with each.

While the SBNA will continue to pursue BW&S's operational department to ensure the system is properly functioning, the only real protection for homeowner is the installation of a back flow device.  With the assistance and support of Mr. Turner and the Mayor's office, the SBNA will be setting up a meeting with the BW&S operational team to review their action plans to analyze and address any functional issues and will report back to residents at the next neighborhood meeting.  In the meantime, we encourage all residents to review your plumbing systems and take action as necessary to protect your properties.

Resources - Please note information provided by SBNA does not constitute an endorsement by SBNA  and does not imply discrimination against other similar providers. If you have a provider that you have worked with and would like to recommend to other residents, send us their details at

More information on Boston,Water and Sewer, go to their website
For engineering support:  Bob Chervincky, President, Interstate Waste Water, Windham, NH  (603) 882-4845  (fees will apply.)

For installation of back flow valves, contact your plumber, general contractor or Larry Cook, New Hope Construction, (401)742-5498.

SBNA Board