Flooding in Gilman Square/East Somerville

Dear Representative Barber, Mayor Curtatone, City Councilors, and Mayoral Candidates,

My name is Christine Carlino. I’ve met all of you at various points over the last few years. I am one of the two co-chairs of the Gilman Square Neighborhood Association. I’m writing to you to discuss the flooding issues in our community. I have provided photographs below of what we experienced in our neighborhood today as well as footage that has been shared on social media.


Over the last several years there have been countless meetings regarding flooding in our neighborhoods of Gilman Sq, Winter Hill, and East Somerville, especially areas at the bottom of Medford Street where it intersects School and Pearl Streets, as well as Richdale Ave where it intersects Essex Street. We have been brushed off by the City Engineering Department on several occasions. Rich Raiche said at the last public meeting that a problem like this takes 100 years to solve, indicating that he has no plan to fix the issues in his career, the career of his successor, and possibly the career of a third engineering director.

Rich’s comment ignores the fact that we have the oldest infrastructure in the city (from 1880), much of which is still constructed of brick and wood and is in extreme disrepair (See attached picture taken at school street). In addition to that, we have a single pipe system which takes in both storm water and sewage water from the surrounding homes/buildings. The neglect by the Director of Engineering to plan and execute deferred maintenance projects is contributing to polluting our aquifer, is flooding our streets with sewage, and is backing-up sewage water into the homes of residents and businesses. This is a two fold issue:

1. This is a global issue of reducing climate change. I know Somerville takes the climate crisis seriously and we need to tackle ALL areas where the infrastructure is not separated in order to do our part in keeping our environment healthy.
2. This is an extreme health issue and financial burden that the city is actively choosing to levy against the residents in the form of insurance claims, expensive renovations required after every rain event and backflow preventers to prevent sewage from backing into their homes (which often don’t work).

It is unacceptable to force citizens to live like this year after year. It makes it even more difficult for residents to accept these living conditions when we have to witness our neighbors and friends battle this crisis alone while the city makes these repairs in wealthier areas of the city. Gilman Square, Winter Hill and East Somerville are home to the highest population of retired folks, immigrants, and low-incoming families. These are the most vulnerable populations to health risks, and are often on fixed/limited incomes with limited access to health care. We are requesting assistance from all of you to protect the residents of our neighborhood. We don’t need another meeting where Rich Raiche says he has no plans. We need action to begin today. As an architect who works on large scale campus development projects, I am fully aware of how long it takes to plan and design these changes and it is not 100 years. We need to develop an action plan immediately.

We look forward to hearing all of your input on how to move forward with prompt and meaningful change.

Christine Carlino

William Tauro’s Response:

Somerville Under Water Again and Again

By William Tauro

Thank God we here in Somerville have the Somerville Auxiliary Fire Department Unit here to help us during emergencies especially in the time of floodings. This team of dedicated firefighters do a tremendous job in helping the residents pumping out their basement and much much more.

Throughout the City of Somerville flooding over the past 18 years has been a normal thing and it has never been corrected. Millions of hard earned taxpayer dollars have been spent over the past years on the Washington Street bridge, the William “Billy” Joyce Bridge, bridges on Central St., Lowell Street and even side streets like Richdale Avenue where residents of that street even took to using canoes on several occasions to get around the severe street floodings. The city has been overspending with our taxpayer dollars over the years applying bandages on the flooding problems with shotty workmanship repairs instead of actually correcting the problems from the source.

The biggest contributing factor of flooding throughout the city are the century old caved in chimneys throughout the city. These underground connections referred to as chimneys are over a century old and have caved in. When water goes into a sewer, it travels through piping which directs through these chimneys then the flooding waters travels it way into the mainstream to open water.

If a chimney is collapsed due to deterioration of centuries of overusage, it cannot filter the water upon a strong demand as necessary therefore causing severe back ups which results in street and basement floodings. The correct way to fix this problem is to dig up all the chimneys replace them with modern state of the art equipment that will handle the water load and disperse the water properly as needed. There are no shortcuts and there are no temporary bandaging to correct this situation. Unless you actually roll up your sleeves and get the job done correctly you will always end up with the same discouraging outcome.

As mayor I will make sure that these problems are properly and professionally dealt with and that they are done on time with no cost overruns nor excuses. We have to use common sense to help contribute to a better Somerville.

Best regards,

William “Billy” Tauro

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