NCDOT official addresses roadway flooding issues

Published 11:14 am Thursday, July 20, 2017

WINTON – Issues of flash flooding after heavy rainfall in areas of Hertford County prompted the county’s Board of Commissioners to have a representative of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) at their meeting here Monday evening.

Win Bridgers, Division One Maintenance Engineer, was presented to address the concerns of Hertford County citizens who had complained to the commissioners about flooding in their neighborhoods.

Commission Vice Chairman Curtis Freeman, who presided over Monday’s meeting in the absence of Chairman Ronald Gatling, presented a list of flooding/drainage concerns to Bridgers.

Glancing at the list, Bridgers noted one compliant on West Modlin Road, Ahoskie, where the issue was the back yard of a residence that floods during periods of heavy rain.

“I’m aware of this issue and that location,” Bridgers remarked. “There’s an illicit connection dumping into that ditch. NCDOT is obligated to the (North Carolina) Division of Water Quality, under a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Permit, not to touch anything that has illicit dumping into a ditch. If we find that, even if we wanted to clean it out, we cannot due to this permit.”

Later, in an interview with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Bridgers said illicit connections are categorized as unauthorized dumping along a roadway, an illegal drainage connection to the roadway’s drainage system, and any illegal placement of hazardous waste material along a roadway.

In many of those cases, Bridgers noted those illegal discharges comes from a homeowner that has piped the rinse water from their washing machines/dishwashers into a roadside ditch.

“We are instructed to determine what type of pollutant is in that ditch – whether it’s oil/grease, sewage, fuel, or wash water – and report our finding, to include the date of the discovery and the location, to a DOT supervisor,” Bridgers said. “Once the illegal activity is verified, a supervisor will fill out the proper documentation and send it to our Roadside Environmental Unit in Raleigh.”

He further explained at Monday’s meeting that the drainage problem in the Modlin Road area is also compounded by other ditches that are far off the DOT right of way.

“DOT’s responsibility resides in draining the road,” he noted. “As long as our (drainage) system works to meet DOT’s needs, that’s where our responsibility ends. If there are blockages in an outlet ditch and they do not affect the road, our position is to remain neutral.”

Bridgers did recall some instances of cost share work between DOT, the county, and private landowners.

“We would clean out the roadside ditches, and the county, using a cost share deal with a landowner, would clean out the outlet ditches,” he said.

As far as the other complaints on the list, Bridgers promised that DOT would investigate those flooding issues and report their findings to the county.

Those complaints were in the 100 block of NC 45 near Winton, and the Blue Foot Road area near Winton.

There was one complaint that Bridgers said DOT could not investigate as it was on a private road (Dupont Davis Road).

“That’s a non-system road, it does not meet the specifications for DOT’s system; it’s a private road,” Bridgers stated.

Later in the meeting, Commissioner Bill Mitchell asked Bridgers to investigate flooding issues on Hall Siding Road and US 13 north of Ahoskie.

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams mentioned a letter sent to NCDOT last year regarding flooding issues in the 400 and 500 blocks of NC 561. She added that the county’s environmental health supervisor investigated that area and found no gray piping (illegal discharge) in that area.

“The last information that we sent to that property owner was that ya’ll (DOT) advised there was gray piping there and you couldn’t touch it,” Williams said.

Bridgers asked Williams to email that documentation to him and he would re-investigate that area.

Williams also asked of DOT’s protocol when it comes to monitoring areas that are prone to flood.

“Do ya’ll canvass those areas after a heavy rain or does someone have to actually report it to DOT,” Williams inquired.

“If we see something that warrants attention, if water doesn’t go away over a certain length of time, then we investigate,” Bridgers said, adding that if that water is covering the road, then that prompts immediate attention.

Bridgers added that if it’s an outlet ditch issue, where the water leaves the road and onto private property, “that becomes an issue if it floods the road, but if it doesn’t adversely affect DOT’s property, we are to remain neutral,” he remarked.

Again, in those cases, Bridgers stressed that if all the parties involved – a group or coordinated effort – in that area wanted to become involved in draining that watershed, DOT would participate.

“Most of the time, maintaining of our road ditches, all of our crosslines and all of our driveway pipes would more than make our contribution to our 60 foot of right of way through a watershed,” Bridgers said. “But the ability of DOT to do what we use to do 20 years ago, when you use would see a DOT excavator far off the highway, well, they were the good old days. Now with permitting issues, limited resources and various other things, we can no longer do what we use to do.”   

“We have citizens constantly coming to us about drainage problems, but we can’t say it’s definitely a DOT problem,” said Commissioner Curtis Freeman.

“That’s all we ask you to do….take the information and pass it along to our maintenance shop over in Union and let them investigate,” suggested Bridgers. “Be reminded that we need specific information, and we prefer that you have the citizen to call in that information to our maintenance yard in Union at 252-209-2730. That way we can ask questions and get answers that we need to know in order to gain specific details before we send someone out to investigate the situation. Better still is for that citizen to take out their phone, snap a picture of the flooding, and show that to us when we arrive because in the majority of these cases the flash flooding is gone when we arrive.

“If the water goes away fairly quickly, there isn’t a drainage problem. If it’s still standing the next day, there is a drainage problem,” Bridgers concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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