Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Water in the basement, again

This is, from what I hear, an El Niño year. That particular pattern of weather behavior is largely responsible for the unusual weather we have been experiencing this Winter - largely, but not solely, because there is also a longer-term warming trend going on resulting from global warming. The upshot of all this is that it's been very warm and we've had virtually no snow, but we have had a lot of rain. Yesterday it rained extra-hard at times, something I didn't notice while I was in a windowless office 33.3 miles northeast of here trying to nail down the details of several projects with several clients.

Babusz went to the veterinarian to get declawed and spayed yesterday. Everything went fine, but she needed to spend the night at the vet's place. This gave me a chance to prep the house for her return, replacing the clumping Sam's Club kitty litter with some dustless stuff made from compressed newspapers called Yesterday's News.

Clumping cat litter is great stuff because, well, it clumps. You don't have to change a whole litterbox at a time; you just scoop out the clumps and add more as needed. But clumping cat litter tends to be very dusty. Pour it in from any height and you will raise a cloud of dust that will settle everywhere. If you keep your litterboxes near your water heater or furnace it may even produce enough dust to eventually foul the contacts and shut your home heating system down. And the cats love to kick it out of the litterboxes. Usually you can just sweep this up and put it right back in the litterbox. But if the stuff on the floor should get wet, you will have a slippery, goopy, clumpy mess on your hands.

I went downstairs last night to change the litterboxes and discovered I had just such a mess to deal with.

The water was gone from the floor, having come in and receded sometime during the day, but it had left a mark. I could tell how far it had come in, and could even guess at how much earlier it had gone away. I cleaned up the mess and thought about it.

Once upon a time water in our basement was rare. Every few years, maybe a little; every five to ten years, a major flooding incident that calls for pumps. Lately I've been using pumps several times a year.

And that's not the only thing that's new. Over the past few years I've noticed a strange pattern to ice formation on our sidewalks. There's always an ice flow across our front sidewalk, flowing down from our upper yard, on the same side of the house where the water is coming in.

And I've noticed that our entire upper yard has turned into a waterlogged mess. When I was taking out the garden a few months ago I was worried about quicksand - it's that wet. And it never seems to dry out, even when we go weeks without rain.

There's also the matter of our uphill neighbor's rain gutters. Rather than directing them into his yard (his property is a double lot with a huge yard) or out into the street, he's got them all directed onto our property. He's always had a few of his gutters directed downhill, but what are new are the extensions he has put on some of the gutters that redirects them from their old targets of various places on his own lawn to new targets on our lawn.

"Why not go talk to this guy and ask him not to do this?" you might ask. Well, this is the stereotypical "bad neighbor". He always has been. He will gleefully dump carcinogenic herbicides onto his property and let the runoff go into my gardens. He uses a noisy riding mower on Sunday afternoons, but complained when I used my reel mower in the early morning during a heat wave so that I might not die of a heat-induced heart attack like my other next-door neighbor. (He was whining that the noise of my mower - a faint click-click-click - had woken him up. I had to ask him to speak up several times as I could not hear him over the din of the early morning truck traffic on our street.) . He will cry blue murder if any leaves blow over from my yard into his, even leaves from trees several blocks away. He's a loudmouth and a lout and a bully. He's not the type who responds positively to being asked politely to stop doing something he obviously knows he shouldn't be doing.

But now he's almost certainly in violation of city codes. There's gotta be something somewhere that says you cannot deliberately dump rainwater onto someone else's property. And he's denying us the use of about half of our property - the swampy half. And he's probably threatening the structural integrity of our foundation.

So we're looking into it. We've got photos. We've been talking about this for a while, but maybe now we'll get some action. And maybe, finally, we'll see an end to water in our basement every time there's a hard rain.


anne said...

I'm pretty sure you are right about your neighbor being in violation of an ordinance. If you haven't done it yet, a call to the zoning officer should get you some answers.
It's bad enough having to deal with water in the first place let alone from some yahoo like that. Good luck with it.

Lauren said...

I certainly hope he doesn't stumble across your blog in the meantime. :)