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Damage checks underway to see if Hamilton County can get federal help with Ohio River flooding

Posted at 5:45 PM, Mar 05, 2018

NEWTOWN, Ohio -- Eve Brooks was dressed head-to-toe in a hazmat-type suit Monday, emptying dirty water from the Little Miami River out of her pots and pans.

"Who knows what's in the water because this is sewage that we're dealing with, you know, so you don't want to touch anything," she said.

Two-and-a-half feet of water got in the basement. Mike Brooks said it came up so quickly, they didn't have time to move their belongings to higher ground. Flood damage extends into the home's structure -- door casings, doorways and more. 

"Probably between $50,000 and $60,000 to get it back to where it was," he said.

Assessing damage from last week's flood must be complete by the end of the week. Hamilton County officials will then figure out if the total damage meets the standard for federal disaster assistance. County emergency officials gave an update to the Board of Commissioners on recovery efforts Monday.

The Greater Cincinnati Occupational Health Center will sponsor a flood recovery training class at 5:30 p.m. Friday, at the Peaslee Neighborhood Center, 215 E. 14th St. in Over-the-Rhine.

Bill Griffin, with the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council, Luis Vazquez, education coordinator for International Chemical Workers Union, warned that flood cleanup isn't as straightforward as it may seem: Different materials come with different risks.

"If the river water comes in contact with building materials like wood, drywall and it soaks in, unless you dry it out within 48 hours, it's going to grow mold," Vazquez said.

Eve and Mike Brooks were tired and sore, and they said it's tough getting out of bed in the morning. Even tougher are the memories they've lost.

"We're having to go through a lot of life memorabilia that’s incredibly important to our hearts," Eve Brooks said. "To have to renew that has been really hard."

Damage could have been worse elsewhere: The Mill Creek Barrier Dam and its pumps protected large swaths of Cincinnati from flooding when heavy rain fell Feb. 24. The dam is meant to keep the Ohio River from backing up into the Mill Creek valley, full of homes and industry 

Along Dooley By-Pass in the city's Northside neighborhood, a Cincinnati Health Department facility flooded. The water was several feet deep. 

If not for the barrier dam, much more of the valley would have flooded. For the first time ever, all eight pumps were running -- drawing 8 billion gallons a day, or 104,000 gallons per second out of the creek and putting it into the Ohio.

"Without that functioning the way it was, ... the MSD treatment plant would have been completely underwater, the main railways that run through the Mill Creek valley would have been completely underwater," stormwater management director Eric Saylor said.

About 1,000 properties in the city may have been affected by the flood, mostly in the riverside neighborhoods of California and the East End. Nine city inspectors were out checking them Thursday, and 15 were out Monday to get the job finished. Art Dahlberg, director of buildings and inspections, said two-thirds had no flood damage at all. A full damage report is due by the end of the week.