STERLING, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s been a bone dry start to winter on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, but some homeowners are having to bail out their basements near Sterling.
The flooded homes are just outside Sterling on the northwest corner of town. The problem is rising groundwater. When CBS4’s Paul Day was in Sterling, it hadn’t rained for weeks. But homeowner Mike Negley showed Day his saturated yard on Wednesday.
Since 2003 the ground water there has risen 5 feet. Negley’s home is one of about 20 damaged homes.
It creeps in under the floors, rotting the walls and breeds mold. It’s so bad now Negley and his family may have to move.
“You can only do this for so long,” Negley said about pumping water out of his basement.
Cathy and Gene Thim are in the same situation.
“It’s just a mess,” Cathy said.
The Thims tore out their ruined carpet and put their furniture in storage.
“We were able to live down here before and have company, but now the bedrooms are gone,” Cathy said.
Gene cut drainage canals in his concrete floor with a special saw. He’s been running numerous pumps around the clock since April.
“We’ve pumped from this house alone somewhere around 4.5 million gallons of water,” Gene said.
It may be a combination of things causing the water to rise — last year’s abundant moisture, plus seepage from irrigation ditches and ponds.
The sound of sump pumps is non-stop in the home of Karen Burkholder.
“You can see where it’s kind of coming through just on the cracks,” Burkholder said.
Burkholder, a public school teacher, races home between classes to bail out her basement.
“My husband and I would take turns staying up all night to keep the water off the floor,” she said.
Sandy St. John says his biggest worry is washed out equity.
“I’m sure we’ve lost $50,000 to $70,000 value in our home,” St. John said.
Desperate to do something, the neighborhood borrowed PVC pipe from a farmer and they’re now pumping the ground water to a nearby irrigation ditch, but they admit it’s only a Band-Aid.
With damages already running into the thousands, the Thims have asked for help from local and state officials.
“What we’ve found out over the last year and a half is pretty much that we’re on our own,” Gene said.
“We’re trying everything we can to save our own homes but I don’t think it’s fair that we should have to foot the bill for something we didn’t create,” Cathy said.
One short-term solution is called “de-watering wells” to lower the water table. The state engineer is working on other, long-term solutions.
For now the affected homeowners will have to keep pumping.