Property Owner Seeks Town Help With Flooding Woes

BERLIN – A homeowner with years of flooding problems on his property
learned Monday night he might have to wait for help from the town of Berlin,
which just took over official responsibility for stormwater management from the
county and state.

Resident Mark Rush went before the Berlin Mayor and Council Monday
night during the public comments period to describe his problem and ask for

His property on Esham Dr., which is lower than neighboring properties,
floods in every rainstorm. It is the only property on the street to flood, he

“There’s no place for the water to go … all the water seems to find my
house,” Rush said.

In Saturday’s intense rainstorm, the swale next to Rush’s property
filled in 30 minutes and flooded into his yard. After the storm subsided, Rush
said, his yard took over an hour to drain. This has been going on for the seven
years Rush and family have lived in Berlin.

“I stopped coming to the council meetings because I wasn’t getting any
kind of results at all,” Rush told the council Monday night.

When he first moved to town, Rush did not buy flood insurance for his
property, but after observing stormwater floods in his yard for a few years, he

“I felt my property was threatened,” said Rush, who added he o spent
hundreds of dollars on a sump pump. “It comes up as far as around four feet
from my garage door.”

When cars drive by his house after a rainstorm, they create a wave in
the pooled water.

Rush contacted the town after Saturday’s storm, and town administrator
Tony Carson came out to his property. Carson referred the issue to the town’s
new stormwater consultant.

“It seems to me I got a pretty generic response … from what I can see
I’m not getting any kind of answer at all,” said Rush.

Rush said he does not want a Band-aid type solution to the flooding
issues at his house.

“I’m not sure in months to come what’s going to happen to my
property,” said Rush.

Stormwater problems are the 300-pound gorilla that no one in Berlin
has wanted to deal with for 50 years, Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said.

People used to think they just had to live with the problem, Williams
said. Until recently, the town was not even officially in charge of handling
its own stormwater, with the responsibility shared by the state of Maryland and
Worcester County.

In May, Berlin took over official responsibility for stormwater
management in the town, following a new state law.

“We now have the legal authority to be responsible for stormwater
management the way we’ve always been for water and wastewater,” said Williams.

For a long time, with growth in the town slow, property owners could
just push the problem downstream, so to speak, to an empty lot.

“In the past decade or so that’s no longer feasible,” said Williams.

The town engaged a stormwater consultant in recent weeks as part of
its new responsibility and is working on developing permits so property owners
can take action on their own stormwater problems.

In the past, Williams said, “People just did what they wanted.”

Every time it rains, Rush worries that something will happen to his

“Everything is moving down toward me. It just collects there,” he

Perhaps the stormwater pipes near his property need to be realigned,
Rush suggested.

“Where we would move it would just create another problem,” Carson

The issue needs a neighborhood solution, Williams said.

The town will ask the stormwater consultant to look at corrective
measures that do not just push the water onto someone else’s property, said

The big fix for Berlin’s chronic flooding problems will cost millions,
similar to other public utilities like wastewater systems, said Williams.

Rush’s property is not the only one with stormwater issues, Williams
said. The town needs to know what it can realistically afford and what problems
are most critical. 

“The money has to come from somewhere … we can only move so fast,”
Williams said.

Williams commended Rush for his patience and added that he is handling
the issue properly.

“Almost every neighborhood except right down town has somebody sitting
in the exact place you are … it’s been a problem people in the town have been
willing to do something about only recently,” Williams said.

The first thing the town and its stormwater consultant must do is set
up procedures, Carson said, and do an extensive study of the town to identify
problem areas and the costs to correct those problems.

Property owners on Quillen Dr. saw town improvements to their flooding
problem, Rush noted, and asked what had been done.

The town cleaned out the swale in front of the house and lowered it so
it was not higher than the stormwater pipe, said Mike Gibbons, Berlin’s
director of public works.

Rush said he isn’t asking much more than that. “I’m just asking for
help and I’ve been waiting seven years to get it,” Rush said.

“It’s not something we would expect you to take care of yourself,”
said Williams.