Scott officials looking to prevent landslides

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Scott officials are considering measures to prevent future slope failures such as the landslide at Scott Towne Center that has blocked two lanes of Greentree Road since May 4.

Commissioner Bill Wells, in whose ward the shopping center is located, asked township engineer Larry Lennon Tuesday night what could be done to avert additional landslides.

"I think there have been three landslides [at the shopping center] in 21 years," Mr. Wells said, adding that he noticed no rocks amid the debris that spilled onto busy Greentree Road between Swallow Hill and Cochran roads.

"It looked like mud," he said, noting the dirt that slid was fill material, not the rock-laden soil that prevails in this area.

Spokesmen for the shopping plaza owner, H-Squared Properties, have blamed the slide on a clogged catch basin. H-Squared Properties has owned the center since 1994. It was built in 1989 by developers Jim Aiello and Jim Wilding and formerly known as The Bourse.

Although the commissioners took no action, Scott may be able to compel the owners of landslide-prone properties to install or perform additional controls to head off more slippages in instances where public safety is threatened.

For example, inclinometers measure earth movements and piezometers monitor soil water content. Also, the township could request a geotechnical explanation for a slope failure, a remediation report and copies of detailed designs, as well as demand to be on site during repair work. Test borings could be required, too, to formulate remediation programs, Mr. Lennon said.

There is an underground retention pond beneath the shopping center.

Commissioner David Jason, who noted the shopping center was in bankruptcy when it was purchased by H-Squared Properties, said the cause of the slide would be "really looked over" by the owners' insurance carrier.

He also complimented the owners for increasing occupancy at the center.

Mr. Lennon remarked that the state Transportation Department, too, will be keeping a close eye because a state road was affected.

The slide started with a sinkhole in the parking lot, which sits atop a steep hill above Greentree Road.

A top portion of the hill slid first, followed by material and vegetation near the bottom.

Those on the scene reported hearing the soil sliding, as well as trees cracking and breaking from the ground. Some reported hearing water dripping near the top, too. So much debris fell that workers were forced to close two lanes of Greentree Road.

Earth-moving equipment has sculpted the hillside with a benched plateau.

The debris that had fallen onto the road was being trucked away to dry out.

The closing of two eastbound lanes on the busy road created traffic problems for the first couple of days. Many motorists since have found alternate routes.

The state Department of Transportation yesterday opened the left lane on the eastbound side of the road, which allowed both westbound lanes to reopen. The right, eastbound travel lane is expected to remain closed for approximately two more weeks while the slide repair and cleanup continues.

Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: .


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