City responds to dire flooding problem in the Fan

Posted at 6:34 PM, May 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-28 19:45:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In the heart of VCU's campus, construction is the new normal, but many say heavy flooding has also been a familiar sight, for too long.

As evidenced last week when a fast-moving, heavy storm flooded the intersection of Grace and Harrison Streets, it was temporarily a mini-lake.

“It was five feet over the curb,” said Village Cafe bar manager Chris Brumfield. 

"I wondered if it was going to ruin the tiling in the restaurant -- if we were going to have to shut down for a while," said Ariel Schultz, who works at Panda Garden.

Businesses like the Village Cafe say they felt the brunt of the flooding, and last week wasn't the first time.

"Everytime it rains, it floods from outside drains in through ours," said Ray Ralph, Bartender, Village Cafe.

"From like the door, it started coming in a little bit from outside, but then it will also come in from out here and kind of dispense to a couple of booths down there," Ralph said. " And then, downstairs started to get wet from coming out of the bathroom."

Ralph told CBS 6 that the problem stems from the city's overflowing sewer system.

"The city came down and cleaned out the sewage not too long ago because we got complaints about it smelling bad," Ralph said.

According to Richmond's Department of Public Utilities, the city is well aware of the issue experienced by those businesses, and has been for some time.

Angela Fountain told CBS 6 that portion of the Fan is in a low-lying area that receives water run-off from the alleys that run between Grace and Franklin streets.

While there is plenty of capacity with the pipes underground, the city is working to increase the size of some of the drains and install more inlets in order to better catch the fast flowing water and alleviate flooding.

Fountain said a drainage study has been completed that has provided information about what needs to be done and DPU has solicited an engineering firm and is currently awaiting their design proposal.

Back at the Village Cafe, Bartender Ralph hopes the work is done before the next storm rolls through.

"Between the whole bar filling up and the street filling up, it just reached a point where you just start like shaking your head," Ralph said. "And just rolling with it."