CENTREVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Residents in Illinois’ Metro East region are facing a major public health crisis because of persistent flooding and sewage problems, the state’s two U.S. senators said in a letter sent Wednesday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin asked the federal agency to enforce environmental laws, conduct water testing and identify solutions to the problems that plague Centreville and nearby communities east of St. Louis.
In parts of Centreville, dirt trenches — that haven’t been maintained — instead of storm drains line the streets and drain runoff. Standing water and trash cause overflows into yards and homes.
Some streets with storm drains are quickly overwhelmed in a downpour, flooding streets and trapping residents.
In the letter to Region 5 of the EPA, the senators noted Centreville, which neighbors East St. Louis, is a low income, African American community of about 5,000 that faces chronic stormwater flooding and sewage issue that have destroyed homes.
“The urgent public health crisis our constituents are facing — made even worse by the COVID epidemic hitting Centreville and the rest of Metro East particularly hard — demands action,” the senators wrote.
Officials with the state EPA did not respond to a request for comment. Centreville Township Supervisor Curtis McCall said Wednesday he welcomes the senators’ request for EPA involvement.
Residents say they have faced more than two decades of minor fixes and unkept promises of repairs to broken pipelines and above ground pumps. East St. Louis and Cahokia, also predominantly Black communities, have similar flooding and sewer issues that have also gone unaddressed.
A federal lawsuit was filed in June on behalf of two Centreville residents who seek an order directing local officials to immediately remedy the broken sewer and drainage systems.
In responses filed in court last week, officials with Centreville and Commonfields of Cahokia, which operates the wastewater system, asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit. The officials denied allegations of problems with drainage and flooding, and argue they “lack sufficient knowledge” about the two residents’ problems to either admit or deny responsibility.