Floodplains Simplified

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A Fear of Moles and Other Strange Stormwater Tales

While working with the public each day to try to solve water quality and flooding issues, you meet people who have varying levels of knowledge about stormwater and how water works.  With this comes the opportunity to have some strange conversations and find some odd stuff.  Additionally, being responsible for drainage infrastructure means that you are constantly in someone’s backyard.

Let us journey into the world of stormwater and hear some stories!

Afraid of moles

I had received a call from a property owner about some holes in their yard.  Upon investigation, I found that the storm sewer pipe was failing in several spots and would need completely replaced.  I met with the property owner the next day to schedule the project and after describing what we would do, I was asked to check out something else in their yard…

As the property owner showed me the tracks of pushed up dirt throughout the yard, I knew a mole was the culprit (as a kid, I grew up with a beagle dog that was always digging holes in the yard chasing the elusive mole).  The person had no idea what a mole was, so I looked up a picture on my Blackberry (yes, a blast from the past) and that individual freaked out; they thought it was the size of a small dog!   They also thought it would attack them, but I explained they moved at the speed of a snail.  The person then requested that I dig up their entire backyard while I was there with equipment to get rid of the mole…sorry but that is not what we do…


The highly skilled and dangerous worm assassin…the mole!

A place to burn their trash

While out checking some drainage pipes for any failures, I came across a storm sewer catch basin in the back of several lots (where 4 properties came together).  This catch basin had a huge mound of burned debris on it and the grass all around it was burnt.  I spoke with a property owner and they stated that a neighbor was using the catch basin as a burn pit for their trash, newspapers, etc.  I ended up speaking with that neighbor and they informed me that they had always burned their garbage in the country and had thought it was allowed in the City…nope…not allowed.

Catch Basin

Not a place to burn trash or dump your left over charcoal from the BBQ!

Somebody is watching

On a pleasant day, during the spring season at about 1:00 p.m., I was out checking several storm sewer catch basins along the curb (we had recently received complaints that the street flooded) looking for a blockage.  I had walked down the road, so my vehicle was about a block away.  When I arrived at one catch basin, it was in front of a house where four guys were playing cards at a table in front of the garage.  I was looking in the catch basin when they came over and asked what I was doing.  After I got finished explaining about the flooding, they agreed it was a problem and were glad I was out there trying to fix it.  Then one of them said, “We thought you worked for the Police Department and were putting out cameras”.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled to let them know that I was not putting out cameras…

Storm Sewer Catch Basin

I have yet to see a camera installed in a catch basin.  I suppose it could work.

The flood finale

During my time out in the field working on drainage and flooding issues, I have come across:

  • Drug users, needles on the ground, possible meth containers;
  • Happy people;
  • Sad people;
  • Angry people;
  • Drunk people.

Obviously, there are a number of situations and conversations that occur while working with the public.   Sometimes it can be fun, while other times it can be dangerous.  You never know what you will run into each day!   If you have met some neat people, let me know in the comments section.



  1. Great stories! We can definitely relate to your stories of being in the field. I will never forget one time I accompanied our inspector on a stop work order for a hog farm expansion that was destroying a wetland. When we approached them about it, the farmer made a point to get out his large pocket knife to sharpen a stick while saying some intimidating remarks to both of us. You never know how people will react to stormwater regulations!

  2. Reblogged this on Trash Talk and commented:
    Some great stories about “stormwater” encounters in the field.

  3. Raccoons were the bane of my existence when inspecting storm drains

  4. Yeah, I have run into a few raccoons and other wildlife (have to watch out when making a confined space entry into a manhole). I have also had a drunk guy make some threats!

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