ENFIELD — Flooding has been a growing issue in the Town of Enfield, prompting town officials to seek aid from the county, state and federal levels.
In the southern part of Halifax County, the rural town sits adjacent to Beech Swamp, Burnt Coat Swamp and Fishing Creek with a population of more than 2,000.
According to the North Carolina Flood Risk Information System, Enfield is labeled as a Zone D area, which means the area has possible but undetermined flood hazards with no analysis conducted, but the corporate limits are classified as Zone X, which is protected by a levee.
Chris Rountree, Halifax County Planning and Zoning director, said the Zone X area is not a special flood hazard area. Rountree said the flood maps are revised and updated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state. The latest revision was in 2007 according to the map, he said.
The flooding in the town has been a struggle for quite some time, Public Works Director Michael Powell said. Working in his role for more than four years, Powell said much of the problem stems from water not having a curb and gutter in some areas to flow to the outskirts of the town.
On Thursday, many areas showed flooding. One area in particular, Dr. M.L. King Jr. Avenue, showed many residential properties with yards flooded and overflow into the street.
Powell said areas on that street have small ditches that run to larger ditches where some homeowners put up fences that prevent cleanup.
“You can’t get in to dig it out,” he said. “You may go a block where there are ditches you can get in and actually get access to clean the ditches. Then you may get another block where you can’t even get in there to where it leads over to the major ditches that carry the water out of the town.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Powell said the Public Works Department is down to eight employees, where they once had 13 inmates assist with town needs.
Brothers Lamar and Dennis Caudle both have been working in the town’s Public Works for more than 20 years.
Dennis said the flooding has worsened and attributed it to needing new pipes.
“They are getting kind of old now, and you have a lot of holes in the road now,” he said.
Lamar echoed what Powell said about the ditches needing to be cleaned, and said the town is working on a grant to get assistance to remedy the situation.
Powell said during the summers, 30-minute storms will flood areas.
“Once the rain stops, probably 30 minutes after it stops, of course, the streets are flooded, but the time — 30 minutes after the stop the water goes out,” he said. “It’s a problem that the pipes just can’t take the waters fast enough to carry it out.”
The flood issue has been brought up in many Board of Commissioners’ meetings, where the town is relying on finding grants to alleviate the problem.
Commissioner Bobby Whitaker has lived in Enfield for 55 years and said the issue needs to be acted on as soon as possible. Whitaker said there are developers in the area wanting to build and remodel homes in the town, but may shy away due to the risk of losing an investment.
Another point he made was about the Austrian binderholz Group, that recently purchased Klausner Lumber Two in Enfield. He said employees may be looking for homes in Enfield.
“They said they want to stay in Enfield, but if you got a lot of flooding, it hurts,” he said.
To make matters worse, Whitaker said the floods carry litter throughout the town.
“It makes the town look like it’s trashed up,” he said.
Not to mention, longstanding pools of water are breeding grounds for insects such as mosquitoes and gnats.
Powell said he has a huge problem with insects.
“I have more trouble with the little black gnats last year than I did mosquitoes,” he said.
During the last board meeting, town staff and elected officials said they were looking to approach county commissioners for help.
When asked if the Town of Enfield has reached out to the Halifax County Commissioners for assistance about the flooding, Whitaker said that he did not think so.
“I guess that’s our fault,” he said.
Buddy Wrenn of Halifax County Emergency Management, said each municipality is responsible for stormwater planning and maintenance in their area. While the Department of Transportation maintains state roads, Halifax County does support municipalities with an emergency response as well as notifications for state and federal programs that can fund identified issues with stormwater drainage.
Some of those programs are Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Flood Mitigation Assistance, Pre-Disaster Mitigation and Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grants.
“These grants are funded by federal dollars and managed by the state for local municipalities to apply for on an annual basis,” Wrenn said.
Whitaker said the town’s grant writer Joe Dooley, an employee of Upper Coastal Plains Council of Government, has been looking into grant funding for the flooding and would file any that were available.
“I think the county commissioners can fight for the town,” he said. “I’m not aware of any other town like ours that has flooding like we do, but we have a lot of it. One other thing, you don’t have to have a lot of rain for this town to flood.”