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.