High water table might flood Como with danger

Mold forming in wet houses is a underreported health concern.

Kevin McCahill

As the rainy season hits the Midwest, Southeast Como neighborhood leaders are concerned the area’s high water table could mean trouble for residents.

The neighborhood was built on a marsh decades ago and is known to have had water problems in the past.

The sidewalks in the neighborhood often are a treacherous line of zigzagging slabs because of sinking concrete, and basements often suffer a worse fate.

Southeast Como Improvement Association board member and housing committee chairwoman Wendy Menken has concerns about the water problem. She said no formal study has been done, but knows it is a concern for many.

“Most houses have some element of wetness,” she said. “For most it is a health concern. Mold can be really detrimental to one’s health over time.”

Menken herself has had trouble with water seeping into her home.

“I wouldn’t send anybody to live in my basement,” she said. “It’s not super wet, but it’s not a healthy environment for someone to live in.”

Association Neighborhood Director James De Sota said residents typically do not report water problems.

“It’s common enough that people don’t report it,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate side to the neighborhood.”

De Sota said the high water table is something everyone should be aware of especially if they are planning to rent a basement in the neighborhood.

Menken said there are still underground streams moving through the neighborhood, but residents or homeowners can do little to keep their homes safe.

“Part of the damp problem in basements comes down to maintenance,” she said. “There are many things that need to be done to keep up a house. Keeping the gradients and drainage on the side is one of them.”

Minneapolis city engineer Rhonda Rae said the city is aware of the high water levels, but there isn’t much that can be done.

“There is a lot of clay and peat in the soil and the water surface is very close,” she said.

Rae described this as a problem in the area, but said that’s just how it is.

Although many homeowners have to fix their sidewalks and steps every five years or so, Menken said there are some positives to the high water table.

“It makes fertile ground for gardening,” she said.

German senior Amy Gangl said her home in the neighborhood has had water problems in the past, but not directly from a flooded basement. Instead, trouble came from a leaking roof.

Southeast Como residents Jermaine Cork and Tiffany Jones live near Como Avenue Southeast and 22nd Avenue Southeast and said they had heard of other people with flooded basements, but they haven’t had any trouble recently.

Homeowners and residents need to keep up maintenance in their homes to prevent more problems, Menken said.

“Most people I’ve talked to have had water problems in their basement in some degree,” she said. “I’ve been in basements that are practically running water.”

To fix this problem, some houses have been built higher than others, but often basements remain unlivable.

“I would not put carpeting down there, and I wouldn’t panel walls and expect anyone to live down there,” Menken said.