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Beth. Twp.. commissioners want to tap state money for drainage problem solution

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: May 06 2013 09:40:06 PM CDT
Updated On: May 07 2013 06:58:54 AM CDT
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Bethlehem Township commissioners decided Monday night to try to tap into state funding to solve a long-standing water drainage problem.

The commissioners also were told that an area of Prospect Heights that had been threatened by a sinkhole two months ago is close to being back to normal.

Commissioners voted unanimously to pay $13,850 to Bethlehem engineering firm T&M Associates to prepare a grant application for state funding to help fix a water drainage problem affecting an area near Glouster Road and Route 191.

"It's not been an immediate concern, but it's been in our radar for at least five or six years," commissioner Michael Hudak said after the meeting.

Gregory Duncan, representing T&M, said the township could qualify for money from the Watershed Restoration and Protection and Growing Greener programs by taking a "holistic" approach to the drainage problem. That would mean addressing water quality as well as realigning the water channel, he said.

If the township would try to solve the problem on its own, it would cost anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000, Hudak noted.

Duncan did not estimate how much state money the township could get for the project, but mentioned that the money might come in the form of matching grants.

The project would include relining a ditch that accepts water runoff from nearby properties, Duncan said. "Mostly those [properties] were in older developments," he said, "but [the volume of water] has increased as the more driveways and rooftops have been developed over the years."

Most of that lining has now been "scoured out," Duncan said.

Another part of the project might be the creation of a detention pond on a parcel of township-owned land at the end of Glouster Street, Duncan said.

The deadline for filing the application is July 31, Duncan said, adding that approval would take about five months. Work could begin in late winter at the earliest, he added.

As for the sinkhole that opened up in the area of 2nd Street and Wilson Avenue, Hudak said the area should be "100 percent back to normal" in a few days, "with the exception of grass growing. We need Mother Nature's help with that."

The crater swallowed part of a family's backyard and driveway when it opened on March 10, and forced a family from its home for a couple of days. The sinkhole eventually grew to about 100 feet wide and up to 40 feet deep.

Hudak said township crews have been working on the sinkhole every day, shoring up the foundation of one home and filling in voids discovered by radar with grout.

The township's insurance is going to cover "a large part" of the cost of repairs, which Hudak estimated could cost between $125,000 and $200,000.