Oakmont businessman's fears swell with Plum Creek
The water from Plum Creek has subsided, but the scars remain for Ted Sokol.
“This is what Ivan did to me,” Sokol said from inside his Oakmont auto body shop, as he pulled down the neck of his shirt, exposing a scar from the quadruple bypass surgery he needed after his third heart-attack. “When the creek flooded from Ivan in 2005, my whole shop was flooded, I lost my life savings, my health.
“I lost everything.”
Sokol's Oakmont Auto Body sits on Plum Street a mere 100 feet away from Plum Creek. As rain pounded the area on Wednesday, a couple of feet of water accumulated in the yard adjacent to the shop, but the shop was spared.
Sokol said he, with the help of other area businesses, built a dam behind his property to keep the water at bay.
“Without that wall, this whole street would have been flooded again,” he said. “It held enough that the water stopped right at my building.”
According to the National Weather Service, the area received about an inch of rain in about an hour Wednesday afternoon.
Plum Creek looked as if it were ready to spill over again Thursday afternoon, as hard rains fell again.
Sokol's no stranger to flooding. He said his shop flooded in 1987, 2005 and 2007.
“After the flood in 1987, the borough manager had the creek dredged, and it held until Ivan in '05,” he said, standing on the bridge that takes Plum Street over the creek. “I've been trying to get them to come down here and dredge it again, but they won't.
“They can spend millions replacing the brick on (Allegheny River Boulevard), but they can't spend a tenth of that here.”
Nancy DeTar gets worried every time a storm rolls through the neighborhood.
“After Ivan, I had 5 feet of water throughout my house,” DeTar said, sitting in her rebuilt living room across the street from Sokol's business. “Every time it rains, I'm scared to death.
“I can't take another flood. I barely made it through the first one.”
The 75-year-old DeTar said she hopes someone will help the neighborhood.
“It's a really sad situation,” she said. “I wish someone would take responsibility (for the creek).
“They just don't care.”
Sokol said he doesn't see any relief on the way.
“All we get is lip service,” he added. “No one will help.”
Fixing the problem
How to get help to the people on Plum Street is more complicated than residents had hoped.
Borough Manager Lisa Cooper Jensen said the borough would address what steps it can take to fix the creek at council's next meeting, Oct. 14.
“We've been trying to address those concerns since 2004, if not longer,” she said. “That's definitely a problem for us.”
The borough originally thought the creek was under the control of the Army Corps of Engineers.
But the Corps denied that Thursday, opening the door for the borough to act.
“We did a project there in 1981,” Dan Jones, a spokesman for the Corps. It was a project in which rocks were placed along the creek banks to prevent erosion.
“There aren't any studies in the works,” he added. He said the borough could apply, but would have to pay for a portion of the study.
Jones said the borough can fix any problem on the creek, as long as it applies for a permit from the Corps — which anyone who wants to alter a waterway in the United States must do.
While the borough can fix the problem, dredging doesn't seem to be an option, according to John Poister, a spokesman for DEP's Southwest region.
“We have a long history with Plum Creek,” he said. “We've had a lot of cases where our waterways and wetlands have spilled over into people's properties.
“DEP does not do dredging; we don't believe that is a solution,”
Poister said the creek's problems stem from storm runoff — something the borough will have to address with engineers.
“They have to develop a safe water plan,” he added. “There are a lot of new developments on the creek that have added to the problems of flooding.
According to Poister, the DEP would have to issue its own permits for the borough to work on the creek.
“The first thing would be to come up with a stormwater management plan,” he said. “Any work they'd need to do on the stream, they'd need to get permits.”
Regardless of the red tape, Jensen said she's glad to know the borough can address the problem.
“Now that we know, maybe this is something we can budget for 2014.”
R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- New Kensington homicide suspect faces trial on tampering charge
- Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation donates $12,000 to revamping middle school library
- DUI checkpoints take on dangerous drivers
- Brackenridge high-rise infested with bed bugs
- Machinists ranked No. 1 occupation by Department of Labor
- No eagle cam for Harmar next year but 2 for Hays
- Middle schoolers stem STEM Challenge at Penn State New Kensington
- Upper Burrell man accused of selling Suboxone
- Frankstown Acres parents pleased — kids stay at Center Elementary
- Harrison starts off with 18% tax boost
- New Kensington-Arnold employee suspended over alleged inappropriate contact with student