Bridgeville continues cleanup; residents want solutions
A typical monthly meeting of Bridgeville Council will often include a resident or two expressing concern over frequent flooding in the borough.
On July 9, it was standing room only at the first council meeting since the June 20 flood of McLaughlin Run that quickly swept through town killing one woman, damaging about 126 homes, 48 businesses and damaging or destroying much in property.
Many attendees told members of council they have had flooding in their homes as many as four times in recent months. But many agreed nothing compared to the sudden storm last month that claimed the life of 64-year-old Wendy Abbott, of Upper St. Clair.
Bridgeville Area Historical Society President Mary Weise put it in historical perspective.
“I’m the oldest one in this room and I’ve never seen this kind of destruction,” Weise said.
Denise Hutton is steward of the Italian Club on Margaret Street, just one block from Baldwin Street, which sustained the heaviest damage from the storm.
Hutton said the club is closed indefinitely and four residents from the building and one next door are displaced. The flood destroyed all the club’s supplies as well as Hutton’s personal catering equipment and truck she paid off just three months prior.
“We have not even one napkin,” she said.
While many praised first responders and borough staff for their hard work, others voiced frustration that flooding has consistently happened and has now gotten worse.
Some blamed the township’s sanitary sewer system. Others said borough council and staff have not done enough to address a problem that has gone on for years. Others blamed a frequent suspect for Bridgeville’s flooding and traffic woes: Upper St. Clair.
Tom Bean’s wife Jenny owns The Beer Warehouse at the corner of Station Street and Bower Hill Road.
“It’s time for the older communities to stop paying for the prosperity upstream,” he said.
Many praised borough Manager Lori Collins for her work during the disaster.
Collins spoke about the relief efforts ongoing in the borough. She said in order to qualify for disaster relief from Federal Emergency Management Agency damages must come to at least $18.1 million. She said they are hoping to combine the damage from the recent flood with others from the year to help reach that total.
Collins also said local banks and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will also provide low-interest loans for businesses. The state however does not offer disaster relief.
Collins said the Army Corps of Engineers turned down the borough in 2004 to attempt to work on flooding.
Collins also said they have attempted to get a permit from Allegheny County Conservation District for a trash rack in McLaughlin Run, but they felt what they were given permission for would not be suitable.
On July 17, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald will be in the borough to discuss flood prevention. Many stated the need to pressure county and state officials to tackle what they called a regional problem.
Bridgeville Fire Chief Bill Chilleo said water rescue teams from fire departments in Allegheny, Washington, Greene and Beaver counties all assisted in rescuing residents stranded in their homes as well as those stranded other places. Chilleo said more than 50 rescues were completed.
Police Chief Chad King said if the flooding occurred when the nearby childcare and doggy daycare were open, the results could have been more devastating.
“If it happened during the day, it could have been 10 times worse,” King said.
Eric Eisert is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.