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Sewer Leak in Vera Cruz Stinks

Vera Cruz sewer system failure on Main Road East on Nov. 26 that caused an undetermined amount of raw sewage to spill into Leibert Creek exposed more than a broken pipe.

So much stinks about a Nov. 26 leak in the new Vera Cruz sewer system that it’s hard to know where to begin -- based on comments by Upper Milford residents and a township supervisor Thursday night.

But the roomful of residents who came to the supervisors meeting to discuss the recent failure of the new sewer system did their best to share their concerns about the situation and how it was handled.

Phil Casey, a regular at spervisors meetings who frequently addresses the board, got the ball rolling by describing what he saw on Main Road East in the early afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 26.

According to Casey, the amount of raw sewage spreading across Main Road East near Mystic Chain Park was well more than the 5 gallons per minute claimed by the Lehigh County Authority. Instead, Casey likened what he saw to the amount of liquid flowing across the roadway after a rainstorm.

Supervisor George DeVault backed up Casey on this point. DeVault, who is the assistant fire chief in Citizens Fire Company, was called out to Main Road East Sunday night when repeated complaints by residents to LCA about the leak went unanswered.

Based on the accounts of several township residents and employees, including Township Public Works Coordinator Steven Ackerman, LCA phone operators consistently told Upper Milford callers that LCA workers would come out to assess the situation the next morning, even as an undetermined amount of raw sewage was pouring into Liebert Creek.

DeVault said: “There was a heck of a lot more than what they are saying. Five gallons a minute is more like a dribble out of a garden hose. This was gushing out like a 4-inch fire hose.”

DeVault went on to say that when he and a state police trooper finally convinced LCA to send someone out to shut down the leak around 10 Sunday night, the pair who arrived was poorly equipped to handle the situation.

DeVault said he had to go into his truck and pull out a pipe and hit the road with it until he contacted metal so he could show the LCA workers where to find the underground sewer system. “Then they had to use five different wrenches until they found the one that would shut off the curb stop,” DeVault said.

Ultimately, it was determined that a broken check valve was the cause of the leak. The valve was damaged by a large basketball-sized rock thrown on top of the valve by a contractor when backfilling the sewer line.

“Backfilling 101 is that you don’t throw a rock on top of the pipes,” said Supervisors Chair Daniel Mohr, who owns a plumbing business. Mohr added that the specs on the Vera Cruz project say that no stones larger than 4 inches in diameter should be thrown into the ditch.

Mohr has not worked on the Vera Cruz Sewer Project.

Lower Mac Resident December 07, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Did Dan Mohr ever connect to the sewer? I mean, I hear he lives in the middle of the entire project but was trying to stay out of the connection...inquiring minds want to know.
Jackie Martling December 07, 2012 at 05:25 PM
This is a classic case of making a mountain out of a mole hill. In a way, its good it happened so everyone has their duckies in a row now in case something similiar happens again. Why didn't the "concerned citizens" report this when they drove by in the afternoon when they saw it?? Instead, elected to drive right on by.
Fred Norris December 07, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Amazing how it was mentioned in the township meeting that a lot more gallons were flowing than 5 a min. Plus there crew who you would think would be experienced in this had no clue what to do! Fred from Schmick never had a problem with the finished product!
Jennifer Marangos (Editor) December 07, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Thank you for your comment @Jackie Martling. I apologize for not being clear in my article. The citizens at the meeting were reporting the leak in a variety of ways. They all just continued to get the same response from LCA -- "we will send someone out tomorrow." Look for a follow up article on sewer leak, which will include some of the "whys" behind the responses from LCA and why they probably won't respond this way again.
Rob Hamill December 07, 2012 at 08:07 PM
LCA has a long history of lying and abusing their monopolistic powers. What is one tiny leak when they release the equivalent of 1 toilet flush every 14 seconds into the Little Lehigh Creek(according to the DEP, who won't do anything about it). They need to be taken over by a private company who don't give defined benefit pensions.
Rob Hamill December 07, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Lower Mac Resident is a real rat.
taxpayer December 07, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Not only does LCA have responsiblity here the Twp also has a part in this. The Twp paid personnel to do the inspections of installation and backfill who dropped the Ball? Is this only the start winter feeze and thaw have yet to appear. Is this another issue where the Twp put their heads in the sand and hope all will be well. Just like the resent oil spill other then by sitting in the office waiting for a phone call for an update.The Twp only assumes everything is done correctly, but in the end the taxpayers pay.
Jeff Lotte December 09, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Residents, keep your eyes and ears open, this repair and ANY assiciated costs should not be taken from ANY tax base. The LCA should be fully responsible for any and all costs involved. Better start making some time to hit the meetings before they decide to bill you for this. Their contract stated what they could use for backfill, they were 100% in the wrong, do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Rob Hamill December 09, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Go to an LCA board meeting and see for yourself how they operate. They have Monday noon meetings just so no paupers can go see how they operate. They hold meeting minutes back 3 to 4 months for their privacy and so nobody can see what the're up to. They sue and threaten landowners with abandon and bottomless pockets. They need to be treated with the same contempt that they treat everyone else, although that might be going too far for an average nice person.

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