Babylon Town officials are banking on a 12-inch valve to quell the anger of residents upset over years of flooded streets.
The town recently started a valve pilot program in some neighborhoods south of Montauk Highway where residents for decades have dealt with flooded streets and salt water that crept up their driveways, causing damage to vehicles, pavement and front yards.
The town in 2009 installed "duckbill" valves on the end of pipes outside bulkheads on four low-lying streets in an attempt to halt the flooding. However, the pipes clogged with marine life and were damaged by passing boats, leading to "little to zero success" said Tom Stay, commissioner of public works.
A few weeks ago, the town installed "in-line check" valves on basin pipes. These act as a trapdoor, allowing water to flow out, but not come back in.
The valves have been installed on West Harrison Avenue in Babylon, East Shore Road in Lindenhurst, Lido Promenade in Copiague and Bay Boulevard West in Amity Harbor. Stay said it's too early to know if the valves, which cost the town about $4,000 each to buy and install, are effective.
Over the years, residents have sent letters along with testimonies and petitions to town officials and attended board meetings, photographic proof in hand, begging for relief.
"You know when you move down here you're going to have problems with corrosion," said Bill Mayes, 56, who lives on West Harrison. "What you don't expect is to have to drive through salt water just to get down the street to get to work."
Vincent Fiore, a 25-year resident of the same street, said, "It doesn't even pay to invest in lawn care." Fiore, 61, said 3 to 4 inches of water in the road after it rains is common, with as much as a foot coming with stronger storms.
"We're beating our heads against the wall," Fiore said. "For as long as I've been here, we've had a drainage problem."
Town officials said they have struggled to come up with a solution to the problem on West Harrison and other flood-prone streets, which is exacerbated by high tides from the Great South Bay that can take days to recede.
"What's happening at West Harrison and a lot of other places is that the drainage that was installed is too low," Stay said. "Water is coming back through these pipes and up through the basins, flooding the streets."
Brian Zitani, waterways management supervisor, said that he has identified about 200 locations that could use drainage help, but is being cautious about installing more valves because of the expense and concern that they might not work.
"I don't want the reverse to happen, where this thing jams shut and is not allowing water to flow out at all and then obviously we have a major problem on our hands," he said. He also cautioned that the valves will only work for smaller storms.
"We're trying to address infrastructure that in some cases is pushing 100 years old," Zitani said. " . . . If we can find something that's effective . . . I do think it will make a significant difference."