Editor’s Note: This is WYPR’s first coverage of the environmental story in Maryland called Climate Change In Your Backyard.
As Olivia Lomax walks the streets of Turner Station, a historically Black neighborhood that sits on a peninsula near Dundalk in Baltimore County, she remembers when flooding threatened the his daughter’s home nearby.
Lomax gave a tour of the community near a Bethlehem iron site that was once an economic center. Some of the homes there have views of Bear Creek that flows into the Patapsco River and ends in the Chesapeake Bay.
Driving around the neighborhood brings back memories of how the streets resemble rivers. During one storm, he saw the flood surrounding many lands in the lower areas.
“But if you look down and you see, it’s like a river running through all of that,” Lomax said, pointing to the sloping road.
There are less than 3,000 residents in the area. About 66% of the population is Black, according to Dundalk US Census estimates at the time The boundaries of Turner Station have been carved out. According to residents there, many streets and sometimes homes have been flooded for decades.
But climate change has caused sea levels to rise, making flooding worse because the water table is higher. It’s more expensive to get flood insurance for homes, and residents have erected large structures to stay dry. Local, state and federal government knows the damage but no one knows how much it will cost to fix it.
Turner Station has always been prone to flooding, but Lomax said it has gotten worse.
After the drive, Lomax and other neighbors gathered at the home of 97-year-old Zenobia Batchelor.
Called Ms. Batchelor is the matriarch of Turner Station. He has lived there for 70 years.
“When the rain comes and everything is saturated, it comes from front to back,” Batchelor said.
According to Elma Jones, the more severe the flood, the higher the waters.
“The flood went up to the porch, almost to the top of the porch,” Jones said. “And my basement flooded. My son lives down the street. He’s had two sets of washers and dryers in these last two floods.
Residents like Renwick Glenn believe Turner Station has been neglected.
“Because this is a Black community and our elected officials are not coming here to do what they are supposed to do,” Glenn said. “The money that was allocated here, they will send it somewhere else.”
Glenn believes white neighborhoods are addressing their flooding issues while ignoring Turner Station. So is Michael Hancock, 59, who was born and raised here.
“I don’t want to think it’s a racial issue but it is what it is,” Hancock said.
Today, there is rain but not enough to cause flooding. There are water sources here and there. Walking along Sollers Point Road,
Hancock and Lomax point to a storm drain filled with water.
“Well, anyway, it’s going to be filled like this,” Lomax said. “It’s not just rain.”
Hancock said of the flood, “You can’t see the sidewalk. You won’t see any of these.
Lomax added, “The next day you know what you see? You see a lot of trash.”
Those pipes fill with water, even on dry days, because of rising sea levels caused by climate change, said Jenn Aiosa, Baltimore County Executive. The water in Bear Creek goes into the pipes. In addition, Aiosa said that the pipes running under the area were designed to handle the loads from the storms that hit us 50 years ago.
“It’s not about the types of storms we see,” Aiosa said. “So we’re seeing older communities, lower-income communities, and a lot of poor communities that are affected by flooding.”
Climate scientists are predicting that more rain will likely overwhelm existing water systems.
Aiosa said they are working with the community to find a solution, including a study by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Whoever did the modeling, it’s not the flooding now, but what we can expect in the future because of climate change,” Aiosa said. “Then we’ll start looking at what combination of solutions will help here.”
A Corps study found that a one-two punch would significantly reduce the risk of flooding at Turner Station. First, you’ll need to fold over the pipe that sends stormwater to Bear Creek. The water will be allowed to come out of the pipe, but none of the streams will enter. A pumping station is needed to push the water down the pipe. The water that comes out opens that floor and flows into the canal.
Jason Stick, project manager for the US Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, said part of the problem with the stormwater system is the lack of slope in the pipes.
“It’s almost completely flat,” Stick said. “So, for the water to go forward and push it out of the pipe we need a pumping station.”
But no one pays a dollar for it.
The federal funds are available in the construction legislation passed by Congress last year. Baltimore County now has to apply for grants. Regions across the country compete for federal funds. Funding sources include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The event’s regional charts were reprinted this year. In January, Turner Station will have one of its own to represent the district in Congress. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat, lived there as a child.
“The ball is in my court now,” Mfume said. “I want to run with it. It’s important to me. And it’s important to the people who live there and call it home.
According to Mfume’s office, the funds available this year include $2.3 billion from FEMA for disaster risk reduction and $42.6 million from the EPA for upgrading sewer systems. old
Until redistricting earlier this year redistricted, Rep. CA “Dutch” Ruppersbeger, a Democrat, represented Turner Station in Congress for 20 years. Ruppersberger is asking for $2 million in federal funding for a comprehensive study of the threat of future flooding at Turner Station.
Ruppersberger said combating the effects of climate change must be a national priority.
“Because it’s going to cost us a billion dollars if we turn a blind eye to that big project,” Ruppersberger said.
County Executive Johnny Olszewski said there’s no doubt Turner Station has been neglected, but he also said that’s changing, pointing to things like an Army Corps of Engineers study and sewage works.
“We are very committed to doing everything we can to address the historical injustices that have been going on for so long here and in other communities across the region,” he said. said Olszewski.
Some Turner Station residents have taken matters into their own hands. Air conditioners are placed on high terraces to protect them from flooding. The basement windows are sealed.
Climate change costs range from big-ticket items like a new pump station, to the cost of replacing flood-damaged utilities. Or in the case of resident Shawnie Quarles, more expensive flood insurance.
“Regular insurance would be like, I want to say like $1000 a year but it could be up to $2000,” Quarles said. “It’s like double insurance.”
Some streets in Turner Station are in Federal Emergency Management Agency flood map areas where mortgage lenders require flood insurance because of the increased risk of flooding, especially those near valley, but not all. This means that some homeowners may not buy flood insurance because they don’t need it.
For the average home on Chestnut Street, the risk of coastal flooding is high, according to FloodFactor. In the next three years, that property has a 98% chance of flooding at least once, according to the data.
Quarles and others at Turner Station have no doubt that climate change is worsening the situation. They believe their community is in trouble.
“You think, it’s all ice, it’s melting,” Quarles said. “The sea level is rising. The wind is changing. The pollution of course is helping him. Everything we do affects our lives.