City Allows NYC Residents To Pump Floodwater Into Streets During Cleanup After Hurricane Ida

Citing the severity of Wednesday’s historic deluge of rainfall around the New York City region, “in the interest of public health” the city will allow residents to pump floodwater from their buildings into the streets—a typically prohibited act that’s subject to heavy fines.

As the remnants of Hurricane Ida soaked the region, residents took to social media to document their flooded apartments and basements.

The city’s usual answer to flooding on streets and inside homes or buildings is for residents to report the situation to 311 and wait for appropriate city agencies to follow up. But the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday that people can take action to pump water out into the streets without penalty.

“Ordinarily it would be prohibited but given the severity of the storm and in the interest of public health DEP is allowing property owners to pump out stormwater into the street to be collected in our catch basins,” said DEP’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs Michael DeLoach in a statement.

The Department of Buildings said when pumping out stormwater, use caution. “Pumping out flood water from a building too quickly could cause serious structural damage. The water must be drained slowly to equalize pressure on both sides of building walls,” the DOB said in a release Thursday.

The DOB also issued guidelines for landlords and property managers for storm cleanup.

“While the worst of the flooding has thankfully subsided, that doesn’t mean that the potential for hazards is over,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “Flood-damaged buildings can still pose a serious danger to New Yorkers. Take precautions, and if you spot any unsafe conditions, report it immediately.”

Heavy flooding can wreak incredible havoc from structural damage, foundation undermining, and mold to deterioration of electrical and gas plumbing systems.

The DOB advised landlords and property managers to call 311 for any issues, and to call 911 for any building-related emergencies.

Signs of problems will include mold growth, newly-formed cracks on walls, and bulging walls which can be evidence of foundation damage.

Outdoor structures such as decks, porches and retaining walls can also sustain damage from flooding. Soil can also shift and form sink holes especially near septic systems. The DOB said to avoid areas near large trees if the surrounding ground is soft.

The DOB also advised people not to wade into standing floodwaters. Electrical wiring and gas plumbing systems can make the floodwaters electrified. Do not attempt to turn off power or operate a circuit breaker while standing in water.

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