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Hurricanes and the Highway Department: The Importance of Maintenance of Vegetation in Sumps

The Town of Brookhaven is home to over 1,100 recharge basins, commonly referred to as “sumps.” These recharge basins are the first line of defense in any storm that hits Long Island as their primary job is filter rainwater back into the water table to avoid flooding of our roadways. These sumps, while seemingly innocuous provide a very important service to all 483,000 residents of the Town of Brookhaven. A central tenet of my vision for Brookhaven, what I am calling my "Brookhaven 2030" initiative is bringing our drainage system into the 21st century along with a comprehensive road plan to address flooding while improving our roads.


According to the Brookhaven Town Planning Department, which gets its regulations from Article VI of the Town of Brookhaven Subdivision Regulation §15 (SR-§15), the average storm water recharge basin must have a storage capacity of at least five inches of rainfall with the capacity for overflow based on the coefficient of runoff characteristics of the area as provided in a mathematical formula (see generally, Town of Brookhaven Construction Standards & Specifications).


What this means is effectively most of the recharge basins here in Brookhaven are designed to absorb roughly eight inches of water in total before they reach capacity. If a rainstorm dumps more water than that in a short period of time, the likelihood of flooding is much more likely with each additional inch of rainfall.


Unfortunately, many of our recharge basins here in Brookhaven have become overrun with vegetation like trees and shrubs whose roots clog up the sump. This vegetation strains the ability of the recharge basins to do their job to filter storm water back into the water table. This is why in the case of intense rainfalls, you see flooding in many parts of Brookhaven. The topography of Long Island coupled with the fact that our recharge basins are littered with vegetation is a strong recipe for flooding throughout our township.


Hurricanes can drop up to six inches of rain per hour when they are at their strongest points. According to NASA’s Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (“MPA”), Hurricane Sandy dropped at least 6” of rain on Eastern Long Island. Superstorm Sandy caused incredible damages from flooding in many areas of Long Island and Sandy’s rainwater totals are the amounts that our recharge basis are actually designed to be able to absorb. Obviously, a hurricane’s winds and other characteristics amplify the effects of flooding by knocking down trees and other structures, but it is painstakingly clear that the best offense to a storm is a good defense by ensuring that our recharge basins are up to the challenge of absorbing large amounts of rainfall.



Source: NASA

https://pmm.nasa.gov/mission-updates/trmm-news/deadly-super-storm-sandys-rainfall


With unpredictable weather phenomenons such as hurricanes and tropical storms expected to hit our region in the upcoming years, it is of vital importance that the Highway Department gives our recharge basins the attention, care, and maintenance they sorely require to protect residents from the dangers of flooding that these storms present. Equally important is the consideration that the Town's Planning Department update our Subdivision Regulations to allow future recharge basins to absorb more water for larger and more powerful storms. This quality of life and safety issue will become ever more important with each passing hurricane season!


A central tenet of Brookhaven 2030 is my TRIM initiative. This is a comprehensive drainage repair, restoration, and vegetation management plan for all 1,100 recharge basins across Brookhaven and it will not only prepare us for future tropical storms, but will allow us to ensure that water does not negatively impact our roads.





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