By Reginald Johnson
BRIDGEPORT ----- Environmental activists and a city council member say new construction in the Remington Woods forest may have triggered the historic flooding which destroyed cars and damaged homes in an East Side neighborhood earlier this month.
Homes along Ohio Avenue and some nearby streets were hit by the massive flooding after two downpours on June 30 and July 3rd, said Councilwoman Maria Pereira, D-138.
Flooding two to four feet deep engulfed cars and poured into basements, she said.
“Two cars were totalled and two people had to be rescued by the fire department,” Pereira said. “The city engineer told me that in his 20 years working for the city, he had never seen anything like it.”
Some homeowners have had to spend thousands of dollars to clean up, and in some cases, insurance companies are refusing to pay for the damage, the council member said.
A meeting will take place Thursday at 5:30 pm in the Thomas Hooker School to give residents a chance to air their concerns about the flooding with city officials, Pereira said.
The big mystery is what caused the flooding in the neighborhood, which is in the northeastern section of the city, off East Main Street. Oddly, Ohio Avenue, which crosses East Main Street, was only flooded on the eastern end. The western side of the street was untouched.
Instead of faulty sewers causing the flooding, Pereira said the cause might be new construction at the Remington Woods tract which sits on the eastern end of the flooded area.
“This does not appear to be raw sewage, but water with dirt and grit,” Pereira said of the overflow.
The Remington Woods site --- 422 acres of mostly woods and a 22-acre lake ---- is owned by Corteva, a subsidiary of DuPont, the giant chemical corporation. Corteva is planning light industrial development for the area.
In recent years, Corteva has been conducting an environmental clean-up of the tract, which contains munitions waste left by the Remington Arms company. The firearms company, now owned by DuPont, had a factory in Bridgeport and used to test its products at the woodlands site.
Environmentalist Lela Florel is also suspicious that recent tree cutting and construction work in the woods may have sparked the unprecedented flooding. Florel points to the fact that Remington Woods is at a significantly higher elevation than streets such as Ohio Avenue. Ohio Avenue is at 49 feet above sea level, while Remington Woods sits at 62 feet to about 138 feet, she says.
“The woods is high!” Florel said. “The water runs down. Either the Woods is left natural to absorb it, or the neighborhood floods,” Florel said.
Pereira said construction of a dam on the site might also have been a contributing factor.
Meanwhile, Florel, Pereira and others in the group “Preserve Remington Woods” are fighting a long-term battle to save Remington Woods from construction. The group is seeking to have the city change the zoning designation for the tract from light industrial to one “that specifies preservation of the entirety of the woods as a Nature Wildlife preserve.”
Florel says the tract is an environmental gem --- home to deer, fox, eagles, turkey and thousands of large hardwood trees.
She and the other advocates say it makes no sense to destroy the woods to make way for new industry, when Bridgeport has so many vacant buildings that can be redeveloped to provide the same thing.
Already, the city has granted a wetlands permit to Corteva to proceed with development. Florel says full-scale construction work could begin by the end of the year, unless the zoning is changed.