- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Intense rains that inundated the area July 15 caused a wave of Harrison residents to complain to the township commissioners Monday.

About 50 residents showed up at the commissioners’ meeting and most were there to talk about how flooding that night damaged their properties located west of Freeport Road.

They also questioned what the township will do to avert that in the future.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Bill Poston, commissioners chairman, conceded.

Residents of Dallas Avenue, Keystone Street and Caroline Street were among those who spoke up, along with people affiliated with Sylvan Pool. The pool, at the bottom of Sylvan Avenue and not far from Route 28, flooded three times this summer.

Township engineer Ray Antonelli said residents should not overlook the intensity of the July 15 storm and the sheer volume of the rain that fell. He said that the rain measured 3.5 inches over just two to three hours.

That would place it in the category of a 100-year storm — basically, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

Variety of problems

The problems weren’t all the same, or at least perceived not to be the same.

A resident of Keystone Street, between Sixth and Seventh streets in Campton, said he had 3 inches of water in his basement. He said that township workers cleared a storm sewer drain that had been blocked.

He noted that Keystone is the only street in that neighborhood without curbs to help channel water away from properties.

Harry Gustafson’s rental home on Caroline Street was severely damaged when water caved in a 17-foot section of a block basement wall. He and his son, Bill, blamed paving, curbing and an inadequate catch basin on an alley behind the house.

“The water came down and the catch basin wasn’t enough to handle the water from Burtner Road,” Harry Gustafson said.

The Gustafsons asked whether any engineering study was done on the improvements to the alley and were surprised when told there was not. Township engineer Ray Antonelli said he drew up specifications for township street paving this year but had not been involved with the paving projects for years.

“I think that’s part of the issue: they didn’t look at that, or study that before they put that in,” Bill Gustafson said.

Poston said the specifications for streets that have been paved in the past are followed because they generally don’t change. As for the catch basin, public works supervisor Randy Martinka said the depth of the storm sewer line dictates the depth of the catch basin and its dimensions.

Dave Christopher, president of the Sylvan Pool board of directors, asked whether the township had diverted more water toward Sylvan Pool from other streets.

As he has stated before, Poston said that was not the case.

“We repaved Davis and we didn’t add any storm sewers, and we didn’t divert any water from there,” Poston said.

Although Poston said he was not “pointing fingers” at Sylvan officials, he said there are issues they must address, such as keeping drainage ditches that run toward the pool free of debris.

Antonelli did say that there is an opportunity for the township to help with the storm drainage by installing a couple of catch basins on one side of the pool heading toward the parking lot.

The Dallas Avenue neighborhood — site of chronic flooding over the years — had experienced little or no flooding for about five years. That was because the township putting in another sewer line, the State Street sewer project, to relieve the hydraulic pressure on the existing line.

However, a number of residents said the July 15 storm resulted in their basements flooding, some of them with raw sewage.

Scott Slezak, a Dallas Avenue resident, said it would be unfair for anyone to call the sewer project a failure based on the July 15 storm. But he had other doubts.

“There’s little that anyone can tell me to convince me that those sewers were properly maintained,” Slezak said.

Antonelli, who gave a presentation specifically on the Dallas Avenue area, said, “I can’t tell you, unequivocally, that there are not problems with the public sewer system, but there are a lot of other factors.”

He said the presence of sewage in people’s basements indicates that stormwater is infiltrating the sanitary system. He said the township has taken a variety of actions over the years to resolve the problem, including dye testing to check for illegal storm-sanitary connections.

However, he said that testing focused mainly on roof drains.

Antonelli said he suspects that foundation drains, for which there was no testing, could be channeling or leaking water into the sanitary system.

Antonelli said he is recommending the township undertake a dye-testing program for homes to check for those drains. He suggested that doing it on an individual basis as properties are sold would provide the best opportunity and be more financially feasible.

Also, Antonelli recommends that the township inspect all the manholes in the flooded areas to make sure they are properly sealed to prevent stormwater from entering the sanitary system.

One other possible source of flooding problems he and Martinka mentioned is the 24-inch sewer line PennDOT has running under Freeport Road, which collects water from the Heights Plaza area and Freeport Road.

However, the township also has an 18-inch line that connects to it from the Dallas Avenue area.

He said with the water coming off all of those paved areas on the other side of Freeport Road, the larger line may have been filled and could not accept water from the township’s storm sewer line.

They said getting PennDOT to increase the line’s size or check to see if it is clear of debris is not an easy task.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or [email protected]

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