SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
A Salisbury Township resident and a former Lehigh County Conservation District official are concerned about Salisbury Township expenditures to repair a stormwater detention pond at Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest.
Jan Keim, of Salisbury Township and a former Salisbury commissioner and planning commission member, and Michael Siegel, a Lehigh County Conservation District environmentalist 1990 to 1995, objected to township funds being expended and employees doing the work.
The detention pond repairs apparently stem from a complaint about one year ago to the Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners by Bertie Musselman about stormwater runoff problems at her Fox Run Drive residence she claimed happened after a Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest detention pond went into operation in fall 2015 on the west side of Cedar Crest Boulevard.
At the May 25 board of commissioners meeting, Commissioner James Seagreaves asked Salisbury Township Manager Cathy Bonaskiewich if she could prepare a report on the matter.
“Yes,” Bonaskiewich replied.
“We’ll take this under consideration and discuss it during a workshop,” Board President James A. Brown said.
A 600-space surface parking lot at Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest was approved, south of the hospital entrance road and north of Fish Hatchery Road, Nov. 5, 2014, by the Salisbury Zoning Hearing Board. Stormwater is discharged into the existing detention pond.
At the May 26, 2016, township meeting, Musselman, a township resident for 23 years, and a neighbor, Mary Clare Kibelstis, also of Fox Run Drive, brought photographs purporting to depict “severe erosion” on their properties. The photos were taken April 7, 2016. The depth of water was 17 inches, Musselman said.
Reading from a copy of the township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance and Act 167 for the Little Lehigh Watershed, Musselman said water runoff is not supposed to increase and the quality of water isn’t supposed to be diminished when land development occurs.
The problem at the detention pond is said to have happened before the facility was completed and when its construction was under the jurisdiction of the Lehigh County Conservation District.
At the May 26, 2016, meeting when Musselman first complained about damage to her property, Salisbury Township Consulting Engineer David J. Tettemer said the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission reviewed and approved the LVH detention pond. At the May 26, 2016, meeting, Musselman said she had consulted an attorney concerning damage to her property.
After the May 25 meeting, a reporter for The Press asked Salisbury Township Director of Public Works John Andreas for an estimate of the cost of the LVH detention pond repairs by township public works department employees, but Andreas declined to disclose the amount.
Bonaskiewich was also asked by the reporter for a cost estimate of the township work, but she did not have that information at the May 25 meeting.
“The township crew did a good job,” Keim said of the detention pond work. “Did the township see any reimbursement from the hospital [LVH]?” Keim asked.
“No,” Brown replied.
“No,” Bonaskiewich answered.
“A taxpayer should not absorb that cost. The township was not responsible for that,” Keim continued, referring to the placement of riprap in the detention pond swale. A riprap-lined swale is a natural or constructed channel with an erosion-resistant rock.
Asked Commissioner Joanne Ackerman, turning to Tettemer, “Did anybody check to make sure the detention pond was built according to plans?”
“Part of the problem that happened was during construction. The Lehigh County Conservation District is responsible during construction,” Tettemer responded. “The [detention pond] plans submitted were in compliance with the Lehigh County Conservation District,” Tettemer said.
Siegel claimed the pump house for the detention pond was not connected during construction. Siegel alleged LVH “was written up” by the Lehigh County Conservation District.
“They constructed the pond and didn’t have the power to the pump,” Siegel claimed.
As a result, Siegel alleged, “water spilled over and flooded properties.” Of the incident, added Siegel, ”It was something that never should have occurred.
“The first thing you want to do is make sure that the pump works,” Siegel said.
Said Ackerman, “This sounds to me that it was the responsibility of the contractor.”
Sandy Nicolo, Salisbury Township assistant zoning officer, code enforcement officer and MS4 coordinator, said he had been in touch with Lehigh County Conservation District officials.
“Are you saying that the Lehigh County Conservation District wasn’t doing its job?” Nicolo asked Siegel.
“Somebody wasn’t,” Siegel answered.
“It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to go up there and see that the pump wasn’t working,” Siegel said.
“The pond needed a pump and a floater [flotation device] and that wasn’t there. It caused an extra amount of water [to overflow]. I’d like to know who’s responsible,” Ackerman said.
“This happened when it was a sedimentation basin. It had nothing to do with the pump and flotation device,” Tettemer said.
“Unfortunately, Mrs. Musselman’s property was the first property downstream,” Tettemer said.
Continued Tettemer, ”The township has a memorandum of understanding that during construction the Lehigh County Conservation District is in charge of reviewing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.”
Nicolo, who visited the detention pond site, said, “DEP [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] didn’t take the stand that anything was done improperly. They didn’t want to point the finger.”
“When this happened [the stormwater overflow], the project was not that far along,” Tettemer said, adding, “The storm happened when it was a sedimentation basin.”
Observed Nicolo of the April 2016 storm, “That was an outstanding storm.”
Said Brown, “What I’m gathering here is that there was an extraordinary storm.”