ILLINOIS: Residents Sue for Damages as Raw Sewage Floods Homes

CAHOKIA HEIGHTS, Illinois, July 21, 2021 (ENS) – The community group Centreville Citizens for Change and 24 individual residents are suing Commonfields of Cahokia Public Water District and the City of Cahokia Heights in federal court.

They are seeking a court order to stop years of raw sewage pollution and stormwater still flooding into their homes, yards and streets resulting from what the group calls “the defendants’ severely deteriorated, malfunctioning and poorly designed sanitary sewer and stormwater systems.”

In this lawsuit, Centreville Citizens for Change alleges that Commonfields has been discharging raw sewage into this residential community in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The Centreville Citizens for Change complain that the District has been discharging raw sewage from its sanitary sewer system in Centreville, and “this foul water also flows into the Mississippi River and its tributaries.”

It’s All in the Placement of the “r”

Now Centreville is not to be confused with Centerville, Illinois, which is the name of 10 different communities or former communities in 10 Illinois counties.

But even when you get the spelling, Centreville no longer exists as a separate entity today, although it did until a few weeks ago.

Until May 6, Centreville was a city in St. Clair County, Illinois, but on that date the city ceased to exist, being incorporated into the new city of Cahokia Heights.

Still, the sewage and stormwater discharges continue. And still, Centreville Citizens for Change and the individual residents are seeking a court order to stop the sewage and stormwater discharges they claim are illegal. With this lawsuit, the residents are also seeking damages for “the many harms that the sewage and flooding issues have caused to their yards and homes. Many of them cannot use their yards and have had to make many repairs to their homes.”

In a separate but related lawsuit, two additional residents are suing Commonfields and Cahokia Heights for the harm caused by sewage and stormwater system failures.

“I’ve been out here for 28 years. This change from Centreville to Cahokia Heights hasn’t done anything; nothing is cleaned up; not with a three-man crew. They haven’t changed anything,” said Walter Byrd, a longtime Centreville resident and Centreville Citizens for Change leader.

“I have lived in Centreville for 28 years,” said Centreville resident Yvette Lyles. “We are still calling each other to see if water is flooding one another’s homes. Just recently in March we were worried about flooding, and we don’t want to go through this again. We are tired – enough is enough.”

“When I first moved back here 12 years ago, I first received a bill from Commonfields of Cahokia,” said resident Lester Goree. “I was told that Commonfields was responsible for maintaining the sewage pipes, but sewage was coming out of the ground and into our homes. Why was I paying a bill for sewage pipes when Commonfields was not and continues to not maintain their system?”

Centreville Citizens for Change is an organization made up of residents of the predominantly Black community of Centreville, now part of Cahokia Heights, is represented by Earthjustice. Individual residents are represented by Equity Legal Services and the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council. In addition to this litigation, these three legal organizations, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are partnering with residents to advocate for the end of the sewage discharges and stormwater overflows and to make residents whole.

“Commonfields has continually failed to address the flow of raw sewage that constantly floods Centreville’s streets, yards, and homes, and flows into our waterways,” said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Debbie Chizewer. “We will fight until the flow of raw sewage stops.”

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