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Rain, thaw cause floor drain backup at Irwin Park Professional Building

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

After months of relentless cold and snow, Western Pennsylvania got a brief respite when temperatures climbed from a low of 11 degrees on Feb. 17, to 45 degrees on Feb. 19.

But the thaw, coupled with rainfall, caused a bit of havoc at the Irwin Park Professional Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, when sewage backed up into a floor drain, according to the borough engineer.

And even though the underground sewer line that caused the problems is owned by the North Huntington Township Municipal Authority, Irwin has decided to pick up the $5,200 tab to prevent a repeat of the incident.

“All that snow melt and rain we had caused the worst possible conditions for producing infiltration into the sewer line,” borough engineer Lucien Bove said. “Since the property is in Irwin, I've recommended that the borough cover the cost of trying to prevent it from happening in the future.”

The backed-up sewer line soiled carpeting in the building and required one of the businesses to close for at least a day for cleanup, Bove said.

Keith Davis, the owner of the building, declined to comment about the extent of the damage.

Sewer backups typically occur during rain storms and when snow and ice melt rapidly because water seeps into cracks in the lines and at the joints where the sealant material has deteriorated over time, Bove said.

Another significant cause of infiltration comes from roof downspouts that illegally are connected into the sanitary-sewer system, he said.

To correct the problem at Davis' building, the municipal authority has recommended that a 4-inch sewer line be installed from the building to a nearby manhole.

“The authority normally doesn't” allow taps directly into a manhole, but this appears to be the best solution to correcting the problem,” Bove said.

At a recent council meeting, Councilwoman Gail Macioce questioned whether the borough could recoup any money from the authority.

“If it's their fault, shouldn't they pay?” she said.

Borough manager Mary Benko suggested that borough officials proceed with paying for the work and then discuss who ultimately is responsible for covering the cost.

“It's a bit of an emergency for Mr. Davis, so we're recommending that the work be done before we pursue reimbursement,” she said.

The emergency nature of the work also means council was not required to vote on the project, she said.

Bove cautioned borough officials about trying to get the authority to help.

“Irwin's sewers drop into their lines at several locations in the borough,” he said. “So if we point the finger at them, they may point it right back at us.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or at

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