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Sewickley residents voice concerns over landslide potential

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

About a dozen people expressed concerns and listened to possible solutions for stabilizing their landslide-prone neighborhood during a public hearing last week in Sewickley.

Engineer Joe Boward, whose firm, Garvin Boward Beitko, was hired earlier this year to conduct a geotechnical engineering evaluation, told residents of Dickson Road, Farren and Miller streets that their properties were located in an “ancient landslide area” that has been sliding for “at least a couple thousand years.”

“This has been going on for a long time,” Boward said. “This is nothing new to this particular area.”

A study of soil in the area showed the hillside contains a rock layer called Pittsburgh red beds, a material Boward said is prone to sliding, especially if it's wet. The Pittsburgh red beds were believed to have played a role in a massive landslide on Route 65 in Kilbuck Township in 2006.

“If you find this material on your site, you immediately know you have a landslide-prone site. Period,” Boward said.

Sewickley Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said no homes are in immediate danger, and as of right now, only the road appears affected.

“It has potential to slide. That doesn't mean it's going to slide in two days, two years or 200 years,” he said.

In order to stabilize the landslide-prone area, a multi-tiered retaining wall system and extensive site grading would be required, which would cost between $7 and $15 million, according to the report from Garvin Boward Beitko. Flannery said that option wasn't feasible.

Boward said the most cost-effective solution would be to stabilize with retaining walls two particular areas of concern — one on Miller Street and another at the hair-pin turn at Dickson and Miller.

Estimated costs for those projects range from $45,000 to $70,000 for the hair-pin turn retaining wall and $175,000 to $235,000 for the Miller Street retaining wall, according to the report.

Neither figure includes fixing the roads, rerouting utilities or any other associated costs.

Flannery said there are no short-term plans if anything should happen in the area, but beginning in the spring, officials will try to determine how water is flowing through the area and the hillside will be monitored for sliding throughout 2013. He expects construction on the retaining walls to take place in 2014.

In the meantime, Flannery said the borough plans to maintain the road as best as it can.

“We're going to make it passable for as long as we can,” he said and added they no longer will lay asphalt on the road and will post weight-limit signs for vehicles in an effort to prevent further damage to the road.

Cochran Hose Company Chief Jeff Neff said though firefighters can't get their firetrucks all the way up to the area anymore, residents shouldknow that they have a plan of action in case of an emergency.

Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or kserafini@tribweb.com.

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