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West Palm Beach to spend $3.5 million on drainage project to fix flooding in Pineapple Park

Posted at 2:24 PM, Jul 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 19:30:04-04

With heavy rain expected this week, one West Palm Beach neighborhood will once again be on edge.

Every time it rains, neighbors say their streets turn into pools. And the area has become such a problem that the city is spending millions to stop the flooding.

"I have lived in this house for 19 years," said Pineapple Park resident Kevin Ryan. "None of us want to leave. We're all here. I've watched families grow up here."

Ryan said he loves his neighborhood but sometimes it's hard to live there. He says flood insurance prices have quadrupled since he moved in.

"Our long, heavy rains that we get in the afternoon now anyway can make the difference between us being able to get out or get in," he said of a typical storm event in the area. "It was high enough that it went over the entire driveway."

When it rains, streets fill up with ankle-deep water. The city of West Palm Beach even provided photos to show how bad it can get.

"Some of us, when it rains too long, we can't get out of our homes because our cars can't get out of the water," said Ryan. "You're driving home wondering, 'am I going to even be able to get to my house?' "

The problem? Pineapple Park sits at the bottom of a slope. Water pools there before draining into the Stubb's Canal behind Ryan's house.

This neighborhood beat out every other low-lying area when it comes to West Palm Beach's flooding priorities. The area was hit hardest by Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne years ago. In fact, Ryan he was evacuated from his home when the water came up to his windows.

"Here's our one drain," Ryan said as he pointed out the only storm drain on his street, several yards from his home. "When I'm saying the entire neighborhood, I mean the entire neighborhood!"

Over the years, WPTV has extensively covered the flooding concerns that plague the neighborhood ahead of hurricane season.

Fortunately, the city wants neighbor help is on the way.

"Everything drains toward that area," said Poonam Kalkat, the public utilities director for West Palm Beach. "Pineapple Park has had a number of repetitive losses in flooding instances over the past 30 years."

The city is using $3.5 million from its Storm Water Master Plan to upgrade drainage pipes and add tidal valves to the canal. And because the flood water drains into Lake Worth Lagoon, the city hopes to build a special tree filtration system around Pineapple Park to clean the water, without more construction tearing up the ground.

Kalkat said that means everyone who drinks water from the city will benefit from the project as well.

"Water can be filtered so water quality can be improved, too," said Kalkat.

With a warehouse and economic district in the works, the Pineapple Park Neighborhood Association says the project is a long time coming.

"I get tons of calls every time a storm is coming. This would be nice if this would actually happen," said neighborhood association president Charlie Weiss.

As neighbors keep a watchful eye on the sky, Ryan hopes the city can stick to its plan.

"It would be wonderful to get that kind of upgrade for our neighborhood," he said.

The city was also able to obtain grant money for this project. The state is even giving $500,000 to fund the green infrastructure investments.

Construction isn't expected until later this year.