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Water Woes Continue for Bally Residents
Written by Allison Czapp, Correspondent
2017-07-12

            Bally Borough residents – plagued with years of water problems – now have a new grievance to add to the list. Their basements are being flooded.

            The borough's effort to fix the crumbling sanitary sewer infrastructure is working, but now the excess rain and groundwater that once flowed through the broken system has nowhere to go.

            Borough residents at the July 5 council meeting complained of sump-pumps "running non-stop, day and night," of gardens so flooded that no food could be grown and of concerns about the safety and property value of their homes.

            Tempers flared during the meeting, with residents claiming the borough should have given them some sort of warning about the problem and borough officials exasperatedly trying to explain they had no way of knowing where the groundwater would flow.

            Months ago a representative from Systems Design Engineering reported to council that repairs to the sewer lines had resulted in a higher water table for the borough. While the news was then accepted as proof that the plan to make mandated repairs to the system were working, and higher than average rainfall last month has led to the unforeseen consequences for residents.

            Prior to the repairs, which included lining existing sanitary sewer pipes and replacing lateral lines in a good portion of the borough, storm water and groundwater flowed into the pipes – a situation referred to as inflow and infiltration, or I & I. The amount of I & I flowing to the Bally sewer plant was causing hydraulic overload and blowing manhole covers. The state finally stepped, requiring the problem to be fixed and threatening heavy fines on the borough if it wasn't.

            The borough took out a massive $3.4 million 25-year loan earlier this year to address the problems, leading to a hefty increase in water and sewer rates. Residents feel that the water seeping into their homes adds insult to the injury; however, at least one resident admitted to being only "vaguely" familiar to the reasons behind the borough's recent repairs.

            "We were forced by DEP to make the changes," Council President Glenn Mutter said, noting that the sewer problems have been going on for at least a couple decades. "How do we know where the rain water is going to go?"

            "When you start closing off I & I … you can't plan for that," Borough Solicitor Matt Doll explained. He said that the borough's cracked and crumbling sewer pipes "essentially" acted as "a French drain in the borough," allowing storm and groundwater to improperly flow through to the sanitary sewer system. The repairs that have occurred over the last few months "did a great job of correcting the I & I," Doll said. "By fixing all the lines and repairing [the] laterals, very little I & I is going into the sewer system, which is exactly what we wanted to happen."

            But residents could not believe that the borough could not offer them any notification of the problems they now face.  "We asked the engineers multiple times, 'What is going to happen?' and they didn't know," Council member Kris Raedler said.

            The problem is compounded by recent downpours. The borough recorded 3.9 inches of rain in June -  most of that coming in just three storms, including 1.67 inches on June 30 that fell in just 30 minutes.

            "These weren't small storms," Public Works Superintendent Nate Heffner said later in the meeting, adding that it was the first time in his memory that no manholes popped after 1 inch of rain – proof that the sewer repairs are working as intended.

            Still, the residents felt like they were left in the lurch. Officials told residents that storm water issues are a homeowner's responsibility and the borough has no plan to make sweeping changes to its storm water sewer system.

            "There is no storm water system plan," Doll said, adding that such a plan would entail additional high costs for the borough. "The borough can't go onto every existing property and install storm systems."

            "It's not that the borough can't do something," Secretary/Treasurer Wendy Mutter said. "It's that it costs a lot of money to do something." According to Wendy Mutter, storm sewer maintenance is part of the general budget meaning that a borough-wide fix would result in a tax increase.

            One residents who said he was considering pulling up the carpet in his finished basement because of the flooding pleaded for some sort of solution. "No one said anything about what we can do. All we're asking is, 'What can we do?'"

            The meeting eventually dissolved into several conversations at once as council members – who are also residents of the borough and facing similar challenges – offered sympathy, advice and suggestions to the residents about drainage systems, people to call and possible insurance claims.

            Officials directed residents to find a way to divert rainwater into the storm sewers.

            In other borough news, Leo Mutter and Heffner reported that no damage occurred when the strong storms of June washed out a bridge that floated through the sewer plant. Repairs were also made to a water meter that burned out after an electrical line fell on top of it.

            Officials also said that they will be holding a conditional use hearing for the owner of GBI Bally Brook to continue storing shipping containers at the site. The owner was set a notice of violation in March for running afoul of borough ordinances.

            Raedler announced that the borough pool will host a Dog Swim Sept. 9 as part of fundraising efforts to fix the community pool. The swim will be held in conjunction with the next community yard sale and a pet event. 


 

 

 

 

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