Village Condominium Association

Water Problems in the Village

Letter concerning FEMA assistance

What can unit owners do to prevent water damage?

You should know that during very heavy rains some basements will get water due to the high water table.

Here are some steps that unit owners have taken to prepare themselves:

1. Do not carpet basements with wall to wall carpet. Do not cement carpet to the floor.
2. Store things up off the floor.
3. Install window wells.
4. Do not cover flapper valves & check to ensure they work.
5. Purchase a dehumidifier to remove moisture.
6. Purchase a wet vac to remove water.
7. Purchase a sump pump to remove excess water. Do not drain into the sink.

The basements have never been approved for habitation by any building code. Engineers have repeatedly pointed out this fact to the Association. Many residents have wanted and made a room in the basement or unit owners purchased units with finished basements. They may need to do some renovation to accommodate the possibility of water damage. It is best to make sure that wall coverings are constructed to minimize water damage. The Board of Managers cannot assume liability for the Association.

--Board of Managers

History of attempts to deal with water problems

March 2010

I think some of you have just learned the reason we are called Watertown. A painful and uncomfortable lesson I'm sure. We are built over many underground streams and therefore there is a very high water table underneath us. We cannot correct that. It's a town wide problem. During this last storm I heard that many people who never got water before got it this time. Considering the 8 plus inches of rain we got it is not so surprising but none the less it was disturbing.

Of course you're unhappy with the situation but that does not mean that this Board is indifferent to the problem. In fact many, many people have served on the Board's 38 year history and have tried to address basement water problems with varying degrees of success. We have had multiple consultants since 1979.

Here are some examples:

Larson Associates Architectural engineers were consulted in 1978-1979. They suggested we try inexpensive solutions first like plant a lot of trees and bushes to soak up water, slope land away from the buildings, redirect walkways to help run off. The problem is most of the land is flat and it is difficult to drain water from our land. Estimated cost in today’s dollars would be about $10 million dollars or about $33,000 assessment for every unit owner without any guarantee. They suggested we hire an engineer to assess our basements.

In 1981 we hired David Lesky, a professional engineer to examine our basement water problems. The cover letter of his report is a good summation of the problem. The engineer’s analysis “Correction of all defects, other than maintenance work, is tantamount to rebuilding the units”. “These basements (cellars) were not intended for habitation and have at best a moisture and ventilation problem”. The town might frown on the use of the basements for living space.

Pino Brothers consulted in 2001- we can’t build new catch basins to be attached to the town storm drain system. The town won't allow us to drain a new system into the town's catch basins. Also the pipes that carry the ground water would have to be below the town's drain system – therefore it wouldn't work even if the town would allow such a project.

We then consulted Cambridge Landscape in 2001 – we can excavate around our foundations fill with gravel and re-grade. The cost in today’s dollars would be $10,000-$15,000 per unit. We can't do it selectively because there is a possibility that it would only be diverted to another unit. You can't fight hydraulic pressure.

The courtyards could be used to build large capacity catch basins, but would probably fill up from the high water table. The sewer system is probably in the way anyway. Bring downspouts out as far as possible. (We do this already).

B-Dry System, Mechanical Engineers, is a company that will seal all foundations by injecting a sealant into many places along the foundation for about $15,000 per unit. There is no guarantee that it will work because the foundations were poured without footings.

The Board of Managers, over the years, has tried and tried and tried.

Further examples:
DPW Superintendent Gerry Mee was consulted in 2001 – Water is a problem in Watertown but we aren't as bad as some communities. When you get a lot of rain in a short period of time the water has to go somewhere. Sealing all the foundations is a waste of money because the hydraulic pressure will force the water to enter elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with the town's storm drain capacity. The problem is the grid on the grates prevents more water from entering into the storm drains during severe rains but there is nothing that can be done about it.

Building Inspector John DeToma also consulted in 2001 – people call us to complain about water problems but there is really nothing that can be done. There is a lot of water here and it has to go somewhere. There is a lot pressure and water will find its way in. You can fix one place and it will enter elsewhere. It is hydraulic pressure. Extending downspouts can help.

We, the Board, also consulted the MWRA. They won't allow us to put ground water into the sewer system because there is a cost to process that water. They also have no way to charge the town for water put into the sewer system. As a result the Board cannot approve French drains/sump pumps as it is no longer legal. To approve these drains/sump pumps would put the Association in legal jeopardy.

We have also consulted Metro West Engineering Inc. and A.L. Ayedelott & Associates. The analysis there is “however, owing to site and building conditions, implementing a solution is likely to involve considerable design and construction work”. Design, research, surveys and plans, estimated at today’s cost is about $150,000.

I have been on the Board through all the years of water problems and have all of the consultants' work and analysis. It has been a problem with no easy, or inexpensive or guaranteed solutions. I have a collection of proposals from companies that will come in and do individual units but, of course unit owners want the Association – that's you and me - to pay for it. Hydraulic water pressure can't be stopped. You seal one place and it will enter another according to all the engineers we have consulted.

In closing:
You have something else to consider as you have heard huge sums of money mentioned;

Section 11 Maintenance and Repairs
If fifty percent (50%) or more but less than seventy five (75%) of the unit owners agree to make an improvement to the Common Elements, the cost of such improvements shall be borne by the unit owners agreeing.
Seventy five (75%) or more of the unit owners may agree to make an improvement to the Common elements and assess the cost thereof to All Unit owners as a common expense, BUT if such improvement shall cost in excess of 10% of the value of the Condominium, any Unit Owner not so agreeing may apply to the Middlesex County Superior Court, on such notice to the Board of Managers as the Court shall direct, for an order directing the purchase of his unit by the Board of Managers at fair market value thereof approved by the Court. The cost of any such purchase shall be a common expense.

--Pat Gold