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'Wall of water' douses borough

July 23, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - The 1.12 inches of rain that fell Tuesday night in Waynesboro quickly turned into "a wall of water" rushing from South Potomac Street to Steve and Susan Bumbaugh's house at 832 Maple St., they said.

"An inch and quarter of rain almost flooded (us)," said Carroll Davis, of 827 Maple St.

Two-thirds of the storm water in the Borough of Waynesboro is sent through two problematic 5-by-12 concrete culverts and three 48-inch pipes in the area of South Church Street, Maple Street and Cemetery Avenue, Director of Borough Engineering Kevin Grubbs said.

"Some modifications will have to be done to (improve) that flow," Grubbs said Wednesday, less than a month after the heavy rainfall that Maple Street residents said left more than 8 feet of water in their yards and ruined their finished basements.

The neighbors approached the Waynesboro Planning Commission with their concerns earlier this week, and have asked the borough council to present pictures and testimony at its Wednesday meeting.

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In addition to the damage to their homes, other worries they have identified are:

· Mosquitoes in the swamped yards might transmit disease.

· The structural integrity of rock retaining walls might be compromised.

· The safety of both children and adults, especially those frequenting nearby Antietam Dairy with its unsecured 16-foot embankment, could be in doubt.

If someone fell into the rushing waters, the current surely would carry him or her under the culverts, neighbors said. That person would be gone before emergency responders even could attempt a rescue, they said.

"You'd never save them," Susan Bumbaugh said.

Problems in the area didn't develop until 2004, Grubbs said. Church Street was widened in 1999, and the 48-inch pipes were installed that eventually carry water to Antietam Creek, he said.

A "funnel effect" has been created going into the pipes that causes a backup, Grubbs said.

"We didn't have a problem for five years with those pipes in there," he said.

The worsening comes primarily from increased development and the resulting roads, driveways, sidewalks and roofs in the borough. Vegetation and debris is a secondary, lesser cause, Grubbs said.

A 2004 study by Dennis E. Black Engineering Inc. of Chambersburg, Pa., recommended either improving the existing system at a cost of $450,000, or replacing the culverts with arches for $525,000, Grubbs said.

"That will eliminate any problem," he said of the second option.

"Whatever they do needs to prepare for the future," Carroll Davis' wife, Robyn, said.

The engineering study identified a state grant that could be used to offset the cost of the work, and Grubbs said he believes more funding options might be available.

Storm water management techniques only became required of new development in 1993, Grubbs said.

It only is required of development greater than 5,000 square feet. Additional driveways, streets and roofs also contribute to an increased flow of water.

"It's a system that hasn't been upgraded to meet the development in the area," Steve Bumbaugh said.

The Bumbaughs have lived in their brick ranch-style house since 1986, and said they had "not a drop" of water in the home until 2003.

Flooding on June 26 was the worst of three major flooding incidents since then, Steve Bumbaugh said.

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