County work crews cleaned out drains

February 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
There are concerns about raw sewage for some homeowners in the East Bay with the storm blowing in this weekend. They already had to pump raw sewage and water out of their homes earlier this week. It's happening along Lettia Road at Heather Drive in San Pablo.

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This week has been full of fighting this week over who is responsible for this problem. On Friday night the drain was partially cleared out and the county has put out sand for the homeowners to make sandbags to prepare for this weekend's storm.

After fighting this week with BNSF Railroad, Contra Costa County decided to send out a crew Friday, now that the railroad has pointed out a 28-year-old contract stating the county is responsible for maintaining a storm drain.

"I think we're making progress. The bad situation here is the homeowners are caught in the middle," said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia.

They pumped out about 50,000 gallons of water, but residents are not impressed.

"I see that they do it, but they do it on this side, but that's not where the problem is. It's on the other side," said Guillermo Estrada, a San Pablo resident.

There are actually two more spots in question.

"Now how in the world is water supposed to flow through this?" said Mister Phillips, an attorney pointing out thick vegetation near the storm drain.

One spot still needs to be cleared. The county has hired a consultant with expertise working around trains, but he can't start until Monday. And then farther downstream is an opening on land belonging to a developer -- Pinole Point Property. The county says it's up to the developer to clear this spot and the developer disagrees.

While that finger pointing continues, the neighborhood is getting organized and has asked fellow resident and attorney Mister Phillips to monitor the situation.

Read Amy Hollyfield's Back Story on: Storm drain problem could change the landscape

"It's very unfortunate in my opinion, that it's taken all this, TV cameras, reporters, and the threat of lawsuits for the county to step up and serve its residents," said Phillips.

The county thinks the cleaning it did Friday will prevent flooding during the next storm.

"We will be out here over the weekend to make sure there is no flooding and that things are taken care of," said Gioia.

But Phillips says if he lived in one of these houses, he'd be making back up plans.

"I'd probably find a relatives' house to stay in," said Phillips.

There is a meeting scheduled for next week between all of the parties to decide who should be doing what, but that's not going to help the residents who are nervous about this weekend's storm. This issue could also impact politics in Contra Costa County. You can read more on that in Amy's Back Story here.

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