Liability for pipe considered in North Huntingdon flooding

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When a stream was channeled into privately owned pipe years ago, who should pay for work to alleviate flooding from it -- the new owners of properties containing the pipe, or the township?

That was the discussion at last week's North Huntingdon commissioners' meeting.

Several residents asked commissioners for help in paying for work to eliminate flooding along Roth Drive in the Jacktown Acres neighborhood.

Steve Reese said water flows into his backyard, down the side of his house and into his front yard.

"We were given a bid of $68,000 to fix the problem," he said during the meeting. "My front yard is underwater."

Although the water hasn't flowed into the house, Mr. Reese said he is concerned it will.

Township officials said the problem started years ago when individuals used their own pipe to put parts of a flowing stream, which is a tributary of Long Run, underground.

Andy Blenko, engineer and director of planning, said the pipe needs to be 48 inches in diameter to hold the stream, but some of it is only two feet in diameter and that leads to flooding.

The pipes don't belong to the township, commissioners said.

Resident Michael Eric Hornyak said he feels the water that runs across Roth Drive and into residents' yards is "township water" because it runs across a public street.

The water is only running across the street because a private pipe is failing, township officials countered.

Commissioner Rich Gray asked Mr. Hornyak if the township fixes the Roth Drive flooding problem, what he thinks should be done for 15 homeowners downstream who have seen much more serious flood damage over the years.

Fixing the Roth Drive flooding could open a "Pandora's box" of everybody in North Huntingdon expecting the township to pay to fix their privately owned pipes, he said.

Mr. Blenko said he sees two solutions: bring the stream back up to the surface, or to replace the pipe with one large enough to hold the stream.

Manager John Shepherd said the township has offered to pay for survey costs, right-of-way acquisition fees, the cost of recording rights of way, and for design and engineering for the Roth Drive pipe replacement project, if homeowners in the area pay for the pipe.

In that case, the township would also pay to maintain the pipe in perpetuity, he said.

There are several options possible, Mr. Shepherd said. He said commissioners will have to find out what families in the area are willing to do to help resolve the problem.

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Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:


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