By Harry Kane
Ed Hardy and Thomas Ryan have been neighbors for some 30 years. They are the proverbial kings who live on Kingman Road in the Union Square neighborhood. But, every so often there’s a storm that causes their houses to sink a few inches.
Kingman Road is a dead end private way. It’s in the lowlands down by the railroad tracks. And during a major storm, waters rise from the sewer pipes and sometimes flood the residents’ basements.
Cellars flood and washers and dryers are ruined. It’s a natural disaster that some residents feel could be remedied with better engineering.
Thomas Ryan, 72, is a former DPW garage mechanic and has lived at 17 Kingman Rd. for past 50 years. Ryan has had numerous run-ins with the floods.
Back 10 years ago Ryan leveled is house and gave it a new foundation. It cost him $48,000 and some change.
Neighbor Ed Hardy, 69, faces a similar problem; Hardy’s house has been sinking inch by inch after large rainstorms.
“His house is leaning towards my house,” says Ryan. And, it’s estimated that Hardy’s house has sunk between 5-8 inches on the right side.
“It ruins everything in the cellar,” says Ryan. “It’s not a priority for the politicians until someone gets hurt. If the mayor lived on this street, then it would get done.”
While Ryan’s house has been fixed, Hardy has some much needed work to be completed on his house.
Hardy has lived at 15 Kingman Rd. since 1979, and he remembers the cellar flooding many times. The water would flood up to the electrical panel in the cellar, around 5 feet high.
“We had a couple of storms that were so bad everything was floating down there,” says Hardy.
Hardy lost several of his appliances including his washer and dryer.
In the late eighties, when Hardy had a two-door hatchback Oldsmobile Firenza, it cost him 400 dollars to clean it out. Later on, in another storm, his 2003 Hyundai Elantra was “totaled.”
FEMA awarded Hardy just $1800 in relief from the floods back in the 80’s. “I had to replace the boiler, the washer/dryer,” says Hardy. “All the other stuff was just washed-up.”
All storage was destroyed in the flood. He’s got nothing left: Just memories.
So to fix the flooding in his basement Hardy contracted his cousin and dug up his cellar floor. They replaced the cracked clay pipe with PVC piping, costing him roughly $5000.
In recent years the city of Somerville has responded with various temporary solutions.
About 10 years ago former Mayor Dorothy A. Kelly Gay, along with former Alderman Kevin Tarpley, helped install check valves on Kingman Road, which helped control the problem. Yet, the street continued to flood during rainstorms.
So residents, like Hardy, continue to face the problem.
In order for Hardy to get his house jacked up, it’s going to be “about a $25,000 thousand dollar job,” says Hardy. “I don’t have that kind of money.”
Hardy spoke to the Housing and Community Development Committee to see if they had any grants available. Hardy wants a no-interest loan. That way it wouldn’t cost any money until he sells the house. But he may not be able to receive the grant.
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston has been actively pursuing a solution for residents with this corrosion and flooding issue.
Many months ago Alderman Heuston formed a committee to explore the various methods of reaching a solution. They’ve been sifting though the options for some time now, trying to create a roadmap for the permanent fix, she says.
“If there’s any way to help people out monetarily,” says Alderman Heuston. It is being discussed.
Over the years some strategies to rectify the flooding on streets like Kingman have been somewhat successful. Heuston points in particular, to some of the Somerville Avenue work that has allegedly helped to alleviate some flooding in Ward 2.
There’s no price tag for the job to end the flooding on Kingman, but she says it could cost in the ballpark of $10 million to rectify many of the problem streets like Kingman.
“The patchwork has helped, but it hasn’t taken care of the root cause of the problem,” she says. “It’s a calamity for people who live in these areas. No-one knows better than Ed Hardy and Tommy Ryan on Kingman Road.”