As waters recede, flood victims can only wait
Residents were still not allowed to return to their flooded homes Sunday because of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria and an oil spill that coated houses and lawns in a slimy, smelly goo a week ago.
Once officials finish inspecting 360 homes this week, residents will be able to enter and retrieve anything salvageable, said Cindy Price, a city spokeswoman. After that, homes that need it will be cleaned, and officials will determine whether they can be inhabited.
Rivers in Kansas and Oklahoma have been receding from record flood crests, revealing millions of dollars in damage to thousands of homes and businesses, in addition to 1,000 or so damaged in Texas.
Flooding returned Sunday to portions of waterlogged Texas, forcing the closure of some roads. Searchers still had not found the body of a 26-year-old missing since his raft capsized Friday near Fort Worth.
At least 17 deaths, most of them in Texas, have been blamed on storms and flooding that have plagued the Southern Plains since early June.
In hard-hit Coffeyville, contractors and environmental officials are considering options for cleaning up the 71,400 gallons of crude oil that mixed with floodwater when the Verdigris River swelled over its banks.
Officials had expected flooding to stay below the levee, but the river crested at about 4 feet over the barrier. As water rose, workers rushed to secure the Coffeyville Resources refinery in six to seven hours. Normally, it takes 24 hours to shut down.
While the Environmental Protection Agency investigates what caused the leak, a federal lawsuit alleges that the flood was predictable and that the refinery should have been shut down sooner.
Andrew Hutton, a Wichita lawyer involved in the lawsuit against the refinery, said more than 200 properties “have been destroyed by these uncontrolled waterborne poisons.”
Refinery spokesman Steve Eames declined to discuss the lawsuit.
“We’re really more focused on the efforts to help the community recover and help get the operations going and helping our neighbors,” he said. He said the refinery has brought in contractors who helped clean up oil spills during Hurricane Katrina.
The refinery has pledged that it will clean or repair damage.