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Gary Cemetery Where Graves Were Left Underwater Is Now Dry, But What Is Being Done To Stop It From Recurring?

GARY, Ind. (CBS) -- Loved ones were fit to be tied as graves were left underwater for weeks – you saw the story about a Gary cemetery dealing with some extreme flooding first on 2.

By Monday night, the water was gone. But CBS 2's Tara Molina was asking Monday what was being done to make sure such a thing does not happen again.

Parts of Ridgelawn Cemetery looked like a lake not too long ago. It was tough for anyone to see, but especially for families with loved ones buried there.

And of course, people want to know the area won't look that way again.

"It is an improvement!" said Freda Black.

Black is happy she can finally visit her parents' gravesites again.

"I could see (my mother's) stone now," she said.

Black reached out to let us know the water, covering the area for weeks, finally cleared.

"I couldn't even pull up this far before," Black said.

"It looks 100 times different," added Black's daughter, Prudence Shutters. "I'm so grateful."

So what changed since we first started looking into this?

The owner of this property told us then that it was a drainage issue. Owner Robert Williams Jr. said the cemetery's own drains were clear, but there an issue off the property – an issue that he had taken up with the Lake County, Indiana at the time

"They'll find out exactly where it's plugged at and if they have to put in new lines, they will," Williams said in our June 10 report.

On Monday, the Lake County Surveyor said they his office with a contractor to inspect drains in the area for blockage. He said obstructions were found in the private drain on nearby private properties, and his staffers were able to open portions of the drain while inspecting.

This is the full news release issued by Lake County Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr.:

"Ridgelawn Cemetery petitioned the Lake County Drainage Board and the Lake County Surveyor to help address a suspected blockage in a private mutual drain on Wednesday June 10, 2020. Surveyor Bill Emerson, Jr., PE immediately contacted a contractor to schedule utility locates and inspect the drain. Once utilities were located, the contractor, Surveyor's Office staff, Lake County Highway Department staff and Surveyor Bill Emerson, Jr. worked to locate the obstructions on Friday, June 12th and Saturday, June 13th. Obstructions were found in the private drain on the cemetery property and another private property. Equipment used to locate the obstructions has helped open portions of the drain, but obstructions still exist.


"Due the fact that the obstructions are on private property, the Lake County Drainage Board will hold a hearing on this matter. The hearing will determine who has authority to fix the private drain and how the repair will be funded. (See I.C. 36-9-27.4-1 et seq.) Please feel free to call the Lake County Surveyor's Office at 219-755-3755 if you have any questions or if you need any additional information."


But according to the Surveyor's office, obstructions still exist.

"There is still a sinkhole on the cemetery property and at least one obstruction on the property south of 41st Place," Emerson said via email.

"I don't ever want to see these graves underwater again," Shutters said. "It breaks my heart."

So the area isn't in the clear yet.

"This is a problem that needs to be addressed totally," Black said.

There is a hearing set for 9 a.m. July 15 with the Lake County Drainage Board to determine who is responsible for the remaining drain issues and who will pay for the fix.

The county surveyor said he can't comment on fault, but that hearing next month with determine what needs to be done here to make sure that flooding doesn't happen again.

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