Dan Rattiner's Stories

Flooding Solution: Drilling Down Deep

The flooding from Hurricane Irene is still playing havoc in New Jersey, upstate New York and New England and I’ve been thinking.

Why not drill deep holes a mile down into the ground, directly into the aquifer? We could use the well drilling equipment the oil companies use. If it’s two miles down drill two miles down. If three miles down drill three. The oil companies do it all the time.

We could locate these holes in low-lying areas so when torrential rains come, the water flows down from the hills into the low-lying areas to overflow the sewer systems, and then into the holes right into the underground aquifers way down. [expand]

I know, this is a crazy idea. But just last week, the president was sploshing around hip-deep in Paterson, New Jersey, surveying the damage there. If there were one of these holes, he’d never have had to do that. Or, since this is a low-lying flood-prone area he could get choppered in ahead of time, just in time, and get taken out to where the hole is and raise the cap to get things started.

In my idea, which I have thought through, there has to be a cap that has to be raised. If there were no cap, and it was just a big hole, people or dogs or small children going out for a fly ball could fall into it.

I’ve considered different kinds of caps. I considered a reverse sprinkler system cap, which would automatically open up whenever rain hit it. But there are too many nuances for that to work. I’ve considered screw-on caps and caps that open like garbage can lids where you step on a lever on one side and the other side opens, but you’d have to have child-proof systems in place. I considered press a button and an electric motor raises the cap, but that won’t work either, because often the electricity goes out during a flood.

What I finally came up with was a cap designed the same way we have kitchen sink drains where you lift and twist to close it, or lift and drop to open it. I thought of this while doing the dishes the other night.

The cap would have to be much larger than one of those drains. You wouldn’t want to go to the expense of digging two miles down just to have something on the top the size of a kitchen sink drain. It would have to be at least six feet in diameter to make any difference, from what I have seen of the water flooding down the hills on the videos.

You wouldn’t need any flood holes here in the Hamptons though. Our problem in a hurricane is not so much flooding as it is storm surges. The storm comes, it pushes the water in front of it into a huge mountain just offshore and then unleashes it onto our ocean beaches in one great monster surge.

Here in the Hamptons, we’d have to have these storm holes on the ocean bottom, two miles out. I think they could be a mile apart, but they’d have to be 20 feet in diameter for what I have in mind.

One hour before the storm hits, authorities press a button on all these giant remote control garage door openers, and deep on the sea bottom giant steel lids raise and the sea water rushes down toward the center of the earth in a great gurgling unseen torrent.

We’d have to have environmentalists working closely with the authorities on this. Sea level will drop pretty quickly during this operation. You don’t want it to go down too much, but you want it to go down enough so that when the surge comes it is, well, maybe four inches. So it’s an art. How long do the lids stay open? Twenty minutes? An hour and a half? They’d have to have practice sessions ahead of time. Practice makes perfect.

A surge of just four inches would be a triumphantly perfect amount to have happen, and there could be celebrations by the oceanfront mansion homeowners, with people yelling yahoo!! and they nailed it!! And so on and so forth.

I’ve talked about all this to politicians, to government officials and to environmentalists. The politicians tell me it would take years to get this through Congress. The government officials say: with so many cutbacks, who would they pay to man these switches? And the environmentalists say: do you really want to flush down into the aquifer all those foam coffee cups, beer cans, soda bottles and other crap that is currently littering the countryside? And I say yup, it’s better down there than up here. And I say think of all the millions of jobs that would be created to make this all happen.

You think this can’t possibly happen? Think about Holland. They built dikes centuries ago. Think there were naysayers back then saying it was not possible? You bet there were.

Now I admit there is one problem with all this. And it is this—every time that you, dear reader, see a flood in a road blocking your way you are going to imagine one of Dan’s rain holes down in the center of it busy starting up to slurp it all back down to the center of the earth. But no such thing is going to be there.

Too bad.

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