Volunteers start cleaning East St. Louis neighborhood hit hardest by severe flooding

About 30-35 families in the East St. Louis neighborhood were displaced due to flooding, according to East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III.

DERIK HOLTMANN

(Video) After flash flooding damaged many homes in East St. Louis, Illinois the water has receded and the cleanup has started. Volunteers are helping home owners remove saturated furniture, rugs, carpet and other damaged items. BY DERIK HOLTMANN

Dirty cars and moldy furniture line the streets of Terrace Drive and Mary Avenue in East St. Louis on Monday afternoon. The streets are muddy. A stench from flooding that didn’t recede for four days lingers. Some residents rid their newly-damaged homes of items that they can no longer use. Some are talking with others about how they’ll clean their home. Others just aren’t there. At 749 Terrace Drive, Glenda Merriweather and her son, Chris, are busy cleaning her mold-infested home. The living room carpet must be ripped out due to severe flash flooding on July 23 that required residents to evacuate their homes. The St. Louis metro area saw up to 12 inches of rainfall.

About 30-35 families in the East St. Louis neighborhood were displaced due to flooding, according to East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III. The mayor declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. The city drained floodwater from the area on Saturday, four days after flooding began. Monday marked the first day of a clean-up initiative for the families returning to their homes. Led by Belleville organizer JD Dixon and his grassroots movement Empire 13, cleaning the neighborhood won’t end until families are comfortable in their homes.

Dixon was joined by We Are The People STL, another activist collective. Both organizations are accepting donations for residents in the area (Dixon said more information can be found on the groups’ social media pages.) “The flood hit last week Tuesday, and as we’re talking to residents, they’re saying, of course, their furniture, all of their belongings are soaking wet,” Dixon said. “We just know, over time, mildew is going to build up. Having mildew in the home and entering your lungs is problematic.” Mold and mildew Volunteers helped Glenda Merriweather clean her home on Monday. She said she started developing a headache afterward. Merriweather assumes it was caused by the mold. She’s lived in her home since 1975 and is familiar with doing routine maintenance after a flooding event. She’s staying with her son until her home is safe. Her car is also filled with mold.

“Everyone was asking where can you pump this water, but I guess all that takes time,” Merriweather said. “It took four days to get the water down, and that’s the question that was asked—why is the water just sitting here? Everybody else’s water receded. But within that time, look at all this mold that’s growing. If we could’ve gotten this water down faster and got up in here, we could’ve gotten this mold out.”

“I don’t know if it’s the city’s fault, state, or whatever, but it is ridiculous,” Hannah, who’s lived in his home for 30 years, said. “I don’t think we get the help that we should from the government and the state.” Merriweather is grateful for the $100 vouchers she received from Dixon on behalf of the United Congregations of Metro-East. Dixon is the group’s environmental justice organizer. She said her community needs more resources like that. Community Lifeline, located at 1764 State Street in East St. Louis, is accepting donations for toiletries, food and clothing. The city also shared a Google form for residents who’ve been affected by the flood. Residents in need of assistance are encouraged to call United Way of Greater St. Louis at 2-1-1, Urban League at (618) 274-1150, and Community Lifeline at (618) 482-2950. “Right now, we need the volunteers, the assistance to help clean this out,” Merriweather said. The city will hold a press conference on Tuesday morning to address residents’ concerns.

JD Dixon works to remove a moldy couch from an East St. Louis home that was saturated with flood water. A flood line can be seen on the door and walls showing that water was about 3 feet deep in the residence. The volunteers with Empire 13 and We Are The People STL removed furniture, carpet, and other items from East St. Louis homes in the Terrace Drive neighborhood that were flooded. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

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