UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. – The Lewis family was anxious to move into their new home in University City acquired through Habitat for Humanity seven years ago, but the burdens of repeated flooding in their basement have left them feeling helpless.
Antonia and Shamika Lewis live on the 6500 block of Plymouth Ave in U-City with their five children ages sixteen, fifteen, eleven, seven, and two.
Their home was built with four bedrooms, two on the first floor and two in the basement, to accommodate their family. Their basement has flooded several times since they’ve moved in when heavy rains come to the area.
Antonio and Shamika Lewis say they have been working with Habitat for Humanity to resolve the issue. Habitat tried to help control the flooding by installing three more sump pumps into their basement and blocking an underground main pipe from flowing into their lot. Despite those efforts, the Lewis’ are still experiencing flooding in their basement that rises knee-high in some cases.
Robert Criss, a professor emeritus at Washington University who has studied flood issues in the region for years, says University City is a flooding hot spot.
Although his studies focus more on flash flooding from creeks and rivers in the area, he says the old, underground drainage system that connects storm drains and sewage drains causes flooding problems in homes.
Three of Lewis’ five children sleep in the basement. They have lost almost all of their clothes in the last two floods they’ve experienced, most recently last week.
Their mattresses are soiled, and a pile of furniture, toys and special belongings are waiting to be thrown away.
Antonio Lewis is concerned for his children’s health and safety considering the storm and sewer water building up in their home.
“We’re all on one floor now; the top floor. Everything’s gone. The flooring hasn’t been replaced since the last time [it flooded]. There’s no flooring, and we don’t even really feel safe having them down there at this point,” Antonio Lewis said.
Neighbors vouge for the Lewis family and their struggle. Both neighbors to the right and left of the Neil’s say they do not experience any flooding when we see heavy rain, and that the lot their home sits on would always flood prior to them building the home.
Tyrone Neil moved in around the same time as they did as has tried to help them with repairs and maintenance.
“That man works hard. [His wife] works hard. Then they got their kids in there. [Habitat for Humanity] just redid that basement for Father’s Day. Now they’re having problems again, and it’s just not fair to them,” he said.
Through the Habitat program, the Lewis family has committed to a 30-year mortgage, but if they can’t get control of the flooding, they don’t see the home being safe enough for their family to live in.
“You just don’t want to be down there at all because, at the end of the day, you can only imagine where that water comes from and what it has touched before it got here,” Antonio Lewis said.
Fox 2 reached out to Habitat for Humanity and the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) for answers on what could be causing the flooding. We are waiting to hear back from both.