San Pablo still deals with mess

February 18, 2009 7:33:10 PM PST
The finger pointing continues in a San Pablo neighborhood badly flooded during the heavy rain storms the past couple of days. It's happened many times before. Crews were out on Wednesday, trying to unclog a pipe that flooded Lettia Road, but even getting that done won't fix the problem.

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There is a battle between the county and several private property owners, with residents caught in the middle. Crews worked all day to unclog a pipe, but that was just one part of the problem. Nothing was done to clear the drainage channel that leads from the neighborhood to the bay.

One day after filthy storm water swept through a San Pablo neighborhood, there's plenty of blame floating around, but no one willing to take responsibility for a drainage pipe clogged with silt and garbage.

"Every time it rains, the houses get flooded out down here, and everybody keeps passing the buck, 'You know, it's not our problem,'" said Albert Lawson, a resident.

Arnetha Puckett's home has flooded three times. She says she can't get flood insurance, because this isn't a designated "flood zone."

"So I'm stuck with the bills myself, reaping my own damages from the causes of whoever's problem it is," said Arnetha Puckett.

The 54-inch drainage pipe that backed up onto Lettia Road is Contra Costa County's, but it's buried under railroad tracks owned by Burlington Northern.

From there, it drains into a channel that runs to San Pablo Bay through land owned by a company called Pinole Point Properties. It's an area littered with heavy brush and debris. A Pinole Point representative told ABC7, it's the county's responsibility to keep the drainage channel clean. An attorney for the residents agrees.

"I think this is a case of neglect. What happens is when you don't do things over the years, the problem gets bigger and bigger and bigger," said Mister Phillips, the residents' attorney.

"One of the residents said yesterday, 'If this were Lafayette, or Blackhawk or Danville, this just wouldn't happen,'" said ABC7's Laura Anthony.

"I feel very much for the residents impacted by all this. But I think the fact is, there has to be some responsibility of private property owners, in this case the railroad and the developer, to step up and not to point the finger at the city of Richmond and Contra Costa County only," says John Gioia, the Contra Costa Supervisor.

A spokeswoman for Burlington Northern told ABC7, a contract signed in 1981 requires the county to maintain the pipe and clear the area around it. A county public works spokesman told ABC7 he would review that contract. In the meantime, the county enlisted the help of Roto Rooter, which took a fresh look at an old problem.

"It appears that 3/4 of the pipe is full of debris, silt, litter, everything like that," said Marvin Alvarez, from Roto Rooter.

Roto Rooter and county crews will be back out on Thursday to try to keep clearing and unclogging that pipe. They only have part of that job done. As for the clogged channel which is the larger issue to the West. It seems no one wants to take responsibility for clearing that because then they fear they would assume the liability for future flooding.

On Monday, all parties are supposed to meet to sit down at the table and discuss the issue. Still, that's little consolation to the residents with rains coming this weekend.

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