Residents question Harmar flood prevention project

November 9, 2018

Harmar residents who live in the 800 block of Guys Run Road are happy the township has a plan to address persistent flooding there, but have some questions about how the plan will work.

Township supervisors are moving forward with an emergency project to install devices called backflow preventers to stop flooding in that area by rerouting water back through the main sewer line.

Officials say the main sewer line that runs down the middle of Guys Run Road becomes overwhelmed during heavy storms and water backs up into lateral lines that run to individual properties. When the lateral lines become overwhelmed, residents can end up with more than a foot of water in their basements because there’s nowhere else for that water to go.

The township is going to cover the cost of the devices and installation, but ongoing maintenance will be the responsibility of the homeowners.

Some residents turned out to this month’s supervisors meeting to voice their concerns.

Geno Bonetti was at the meeting on behalf of his elderly mother who lives on Guys Run Road. He said he’s not sure his mother would be able to do the maintenance on the backflow preventers. He stressed that there were several other elderly residents in that area.

“Please consider who’s living there,” he told supervisors.

Bonetti also is worried officials rushed into the project without giving enough information to the residents.

The supervisors said they moved quickly because they wanted to get something done to alleviate the problem sooner rather than later.

“This was the best imperfect solution,” said Supervisor Bob Seibert. “We really want to get it done.”

Resident Joan Adamchik also had concerns about being able to do the maintenance, which involves cleaning the device every three months.

Township engineer Matt Pitsch said, when the backflow preventers are installed, he will have the workers show residents how they can clean it.

“It’s one of the simplest on the market,” he said. “You can do it yourself very easily.”

Officials said they already are going above and beyond what they would typically be required to do by paying for and installing the devices.

The cost of the project hasn’t been officially set, but Pitsch estimated it could run about $2,000 per backflow preventer and about 16 are needed. That means the project could cost just over $30,000.

“This is not an inexpensive burden we’re taking off the resident,” Seibert said.

Officials hope to have the project finished by the end of the year, but are waiting for legal agreements with all of the homeowners in that area. Legal agreements are needed because the township will have to access private property to install the devices.

Although the letters were mailed on Oct. 9 to all affected residents, about half of them said they never received it.

Pitsch said the letters would either be re-mailed or delivered personally to ensure everyone receives one.

Waiting for the letters will cause a delay in the start of the project, but officials stressed it would need to be done before the end of the year, when the ground freezes.

Pitsch has previously said it’s hard to know how the main line gets overwhelmed, but it’s likely a combination of heavy rains, small cracks that allow water to seep in and houses that have their down spouts running into the line.

The line is supposed to be fixed as part of a $65 million project the Allegheny Valley Joint Sewage Authority has designed to fix sanitary sewage overflows that happen when it rains, but it’s going to be at least four years before that project is finished.

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