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Earthen wall collapses, shoots out rainwater

[12/16/04]A break in a dirt wall holding five months of rainwater caused a mini-river through the yards of several Bellaire Drive residents on Wednesday morning.

No homes were damaged by the breach. With the exception of a garden, no landscaping was hurt, but the break did leave a foot of mud in a ditch going under the road.

The water had become empounded due to grading on land under residential development between Bellaire and Indiana Avenue.

Nina Buell said she heard it when the earthen wall behind her house at 91 Bellaire Drive gave way about 9 a.m. Wednesday.

“It sounded like a raging river,” Buell said.

Bill Harris Real Estate is developing the 20-acre Savannah Hills subdivision, and several homes have already been completed across Indiana from Memorial Fire Station and adjacent to Covenant Health and Rehab nursing home.

In response to the break, city and county authorities were seeking a ruling from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to determine if the earthwork constitutes a dam. If so, Harris would need to obtain permits from the state.

Harris, however, said he had received permits for developing the property and called the area where water became empounded part of preliminary grading for the development. The actual grading work, covering one acre, was subcontracted to Dirt Works.

“It’s not a lake or anything up there,” Harris said. “We got a 4.5-inch rain over there and it went over the edge.”

“It’s unfortunate that it happened,” Harris said.

Harry Gilliland, owner of Dirt Works, was on his way to the area this morning.

“I can assure you we’re going to take care of it,” he said.

“We’re going to divert some of the water,” Gilliland said.

The drainage from the break did not damage any property, said Victor Gray-Lewis, director of the city’s building and inspection division. The water was absorbed by lower-lying lakes.

Still, Buell was concerned about what would happen to her family’s property.

“How are we going to cut our grass?” Buell asked. “We’ve got a swamp here.”

She was also worried about the long-term value of her property.

“I’ve been here 39 years. I don’t want another Hamilton Heights,” Buell said in reference to an area that flooded numerous times beginning in 1972, driving down property values.

Other residents whose property was affected by the break could not be reached Wednesday.