, Gloucester, MA

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March 1, 2013

Rising water, rising tensions

Flooding vexes city, property owners,

GLOUCESTER — Water has pooled up in the backyards, front yards and even basements of homes and businesses in the Myrtle Square area off Maplewood Avenue for as long as some can remember, and residents and tenants fed up with splashing and squishing through their land are calling on the city to help.

Officials, however, say their hands are tied in the situation.

On a rainless day Thursday at J M Harvey Glass, the front of the building at 68 Maplewood Ave. showed little signs of flood, and a rainy day brings less water into the shop since the Department of Public Works unclogged a drain up the street. But, rain or shine, a window on the back side of the shop reveals a sitting pool of water layered over a grassy private lawn belonging to the adjacent homeowner.

“It’s like having your own fishbowl,” John Harvey Jr. said Thursday, pointing out the window at some ducks floating on the water near a swing that hangs just above the still pool.

City Public Works Director Mike Hale said Thursday that while the city takes responsibility to make sure that the area’s roadways stay clear of pooled up water, but it can do nothing to remedy the issues of flooding within private properties, even if the flooding is caused by runoff from another private property.

“The city would do anything they could within reason to help develop a solution for this, but it still has to be taken into context that it’s a private property being flooded into other private property,” Hale said. “No one wants to see these residents or businesses have an issue with flooding, but at the same time, we just have to be mindful of what we can and can’t do.”

Years and years ago, Gloucester pumped water away from the area — which Hale referred to as a wetland. That kind of pumping is not within the city’s authority now, Hale said.

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