Valley Manor residents fed up with repeated flooding

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:17

Recent back-to-back storms made problem worse than ever Sparta — After their seventh flood in six years, residents of an eight-home subdivision on Valley Manor Drive have had enough and are demanding a solution to fix the problem once and for all. The street floods when there is heavy rain in a short period of time and on more than one occasion water has gone into the garages and basements of some homes. Heavy rains from Hurricane Irene caused the street and residents’ yards to flood and water again crept into some garages. Shawn McIvor and his wife Karen live in the second house on the street and have had the worst of it over the years. During Irene, McIvor said he prevented the water from entering his basement by using bags of absorbent pellets. But last Wednesday’s unexpected deluge was too much for the already saturated area. Water was almost waist high in the street, submerging fire hydrants, leaving mail boxes barely visible, and trapping residents in their homes. McIvor was unsuccessful in keeping water out of his home last week. He said the water was a foot deep in his finished basement, ruining carpet and floors as well as furniture and other belongings. McIvor is a lieutenant with the Paterson Police Department and after dealing with major floods there last week during work hours he was returning to Sparta to deal with his own flooded home. Donna and Steven Rossi live at the top of the street in the center of the cul-de-sac and used a pump in their driveway to keep water out of their garage. They said their yard didn’t become a lake after the storms, like the McIvors’ yard did, but they fear there may be a lake under their property waiting to burst through. Mrs. Rossi said they noticed the bottom of their seven-year-old in-ground pool appeared to be buckling after Irene and last week’s storm and they had their pool installer investigate the problem. They were told there is so much water underground all around their home and property that the water pressure is pushing up against the bottom of the pool and causing it to buckle. Significant repairs will be needed, but they were told if the water underground is not drained, the problem with the pool will happen again. Rossi said their yard is like marsh land now, adding, “I don’t know who approved this development, but there should have been a proper drainage system put in before these houses were built.” McIvor said after the first three floods on Valley Manor Drive he approached the township council in 2007 to ask for a solution. He told the council that after the first flood residents were told Sparta and Lafayette had connected 14 storm drains into the Valley Manor retention basin. However, McIvor claims the basin was not designed to hold the additional drainage and should not have been approved. McIvor said during the second flood that Sparta took steps to minimize the damage to homes by using a fire engine to pump excess water from the retention basin into an empty field across the street. Residents said this kept the flood waters at bay and prevented damage. After this, McIvor said the township installed an emergency spillway along the county trail adjacent to the retention basin. However, the street flooded again in 2007 and McIvor claims then-Township Manager Henry Underhill would not permit a fire engine to be used to pump water away from the homes and instead had a small pump brought in, which was ineffective. McIvor said repeated attempts to get help from the township failed and water continued to rise and began entering his home. McIvor then contacted an attorney and a reporter from the Star Ledger to tell them of the plight of Valley Manor residents. He said shortly thereafter the township brought in a larger pump rented from a local contractor and after approximately 10 hours of pumping, the street was finally dry. After the 2007 flood, McIvor said he and the other residents were told the township was working on a permanent solution. He said the solution never materialized and the flooding has continued, with property damage increasing each time. Current Township Manager David Troast said Monday the situation on Valley Manor Drive got much worse over the last few weeks because of the two storms. “We had a catastrophic event with back to back storms and water went many places it shouldn’t have gone," said Troast. "We’ve been trying to help keep the water level down.” Troast said after the 2007 flood the township proposed a plan to install a large pipe to drain excess water from the Valley Manor Drive retention basin into a drainage system on Rt. 94, but the state said no to the project. He said the town is currently working to find a solution. This past Tuesday evening, residents of Valley Manor Drive went to the Sparta council meeting to once again plead for help to prevent further damage to their property. Troast told the residents, “We take this very seriously.” He said the town is working on a solution but the matter is complicated because it involves another property owner. “Once we get the adjacent property owner on board we will bring a proposed solution before council for approval,” said Troast. He hopes to have the proposal by the next meeting in two weeks. Troast also said the town is working on purchasing a large pump that can be used to prevent further flooding of Valley Manor Drive until a permanent fix can be implemented.