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Engineer Plans for Reservoir Connection Questioned in Bally
Written by Allison Czapp, Correspondent

           As Bally prepares to finalize the installation of a new water tank, the borough's public works superintendent went on record Tuesday night to oppose the engineer's plan to disconnect the old reservoir and connect the new one.

            According to Public Works Superintendent Nate Heffner, the Systems Design Engineering, the borough's engineer, failed to develop an adequate plan for switching the reservoirs from the project's beginning. The plan SDE created would shut off water to the old reservoir, then reconnect the well to the new water tank. During the time it takes for the new tank to fill – about six to eight hours – there will be no reserve water supply for this borough.

            "I don't think it's safe; I don't think it's the smartest way," Heffner said. "In theory, [SDE's plan] should work," he said, but added, "I don't like it. There's too many things that could go wrong."

            For example, should something like a water main break or power outage occur while the new tank is filling, there will be no water to the borough and no reserve.

            Heffner told council that he communicated his concerns to SDE. He believes a "live tap" would have been a safer way to connect the new tank because it would have allowed the borough to continue using the old reservoir should something go wrong. Although that option is now significantly more expensive that the current plan, Heffner said the live tap should have been included in the project's overall costs from the beginning.

            Earlier in the meeting, SDE representative Tom Unger discussed the tank project, but did not mention the connection plan. Unger told council that they are aiming to connect the tank on Sept. 25, but that date might be pushed back if permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection are not secured by that time.

            Heffner, speaking about the issue later in the meeting, said that SDE plans to rent pumps to fill the new tank, but will likely need to fill the tank, test it for integrity and bacteria, then drain it and re-fill it when the DEP permit is granted. He also said that it is unknown whether the shut-off valves of the old tank are in working condition. He was a bit incredulous when he told council that SDE's plan in the event that the valves do not work is to send divers into the tank to manually plug the pipes.

            Heffner's comments sparked a broader conversation among council members about the work of SDE in the borough. Officials said that various documents that have been requested from the engineer were never received. Borough Secretary/Treasurer Wendy Mutter said SDE has not given her any of the inspection records for the entire year.

            This is not the first time the borough has taken issue with communication and plans by the engineering firm. Members suggested that once the sewer project and reservoir projects are completed, they might revisit searching for a new engineer.

            In other news, a conditional use hearing to allow the storage of industrial shipping containers on a 5-acre parcel of land at Bally Brooke was postponed until the November council meeting.

            Attorney Jamie Ottaviano, representing the owner of GBI Bally Brooke, and Joseph Weisbecker of SteelSafe Storage Solutions, which will lease the land from GBI, attended Tuesday's meeting to answer some preliminary questions from council and concerned residents.

            Council President Glenn Mutter questioned alterations to the plot of land, saying that when previous plans were underway to convert the lot to a football field, he was told by DEP that the land could not be disturbed because of potential contamination from the old Bally Case and Cooler plant.

            Ottaviano and Weisbecker said they were both unaware of any potential environmental restrictions, but Ottaviano said he will look into the issue.

            Residents were vocal in expressing their concerns about the unsightly containers being stacked near their properties, increased truck traffic, resident safety, drainage and the closure of a drive that had been used by residents, as well as tenants and customers of other Bally Brooke businesses, to access area roadways and amenities.

            Ottaviano said GBI is willing to comply with all borough zoning ordinances, but could not answer residents' questions about whether they would have access to what he described as a private drive leading into the Bally Brooke area.

            Weisbecker's business currently leases a portion of the land at Bally Brooke to store the containers in a parking lot and on the private lane. Currently, there are about 20 containers stored there, empty. The containers are either sold or rented to contractors or other businesses that need additional storage space. He said that he does not anticipate a lot of increased truck traffic, but resisted giving a general number of total containers that would be stored on the site.

            "I don't know what the footprint of the useable lot will be," he said. "I can't get tied to a number."

            Mutter asked him to come back in November with a general estimate. Council also asked Ottaviano to come back with a more detailed plan for fencing and other issues discussed.

Finally, council discussed the continuing excess ground water issues in the borough – exasperated by an extremely wet year. There were about 6-inches of rain recorded in the borough last month. Year-to-date, Heffner reported that 36-inches of rain fell in the borough, compared to a total of 39-inches in all of 2016.

            Borough Manager Leo Mutter said residents are working together to reroute excess water to stormpipes, but at least one effort will need to install additional piping to deal with the increased volume coming off Cherry Street.

            Heffner explained that the borough's stormwater pipes are made of galvanized steel and they are rusty and holey.  "There's a lot more water going to storm pipes that there used to be," he said. Officials will be investigating whether a clogged storm pipe is responsible for repeatedly breaking up the road in the 100 block of Church Street.

            A couple months ago, council heard residents' complaints about the increased water table – a result of the sanitary sewer repairs – but said the borough has no money or plans to revamp the storm system.





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