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Westmoreland

Whitney residents turn to Unity officials for help with flooding

Jeff Himler
| Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, 4:36 p.m.
Homes along Leachman Street were among the hardest-hit during flooding on Aug. 17, 2018, in the Unity Township village of Whitney.
Homes along Leachman Street were among the hardest-hit during flooding on Aug. 17, 2018, in the Unity Township village of Whitney.

Ongoing problems in flood-prone Whitney have residents looking for a lifeline from Unity Township.

Residents of the village along Charles Houck Road say a tributary to Ninemile Run often spills its banks after heavy rains and the damage has cost them enough. They want township supervisors to help find a solution.

Residents’ “checkbooks can’t handle it any longer,” Michelle Kozusko said Thursday at a supervisors meeting. “Some have totally lost everything in their homes numerous times.”

Angela Bowers said her family was evacuated from its Leachman Street home for three days after seven feet of floodwater poured into the basement on Aug. 17. It was a replay of problems she’s experienced many times before.

For safety’s sake, power was temporarily shut off to the waterlogged home. “Everything in the basement was destroyed, and we lost all of the food in the freezer and the refrigerator,” she said.

Kozusko was among other residents calling for some official action to remedy flood problems from the tributary that passes through the community. She said her basement has been pumped out four times in as many years and noted others have had worse flood losses.

Kozusko acknowledged that various regulations, including at the state level, may limit what the township can do. But, she said, “There has to be a solution somewhere.”

Chairman John Mylant said the supervisors would seek help from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Several residents maintained that the stream should be dredged to remove accumulated sediment. Supervisors have said that plan hasn’t received state approval in the recent past.

“There are spots in the creek where nothing is moving,” Kozusko said. “Some of that sediment has to be removed.

“It’s not going to fix the problem, but it will give us a chance.”

Supervisor Ed Poponick noted he has witnessed stagnant areas in the stream.

In May, the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, with help from students at nearby Greater Latrobe Senior High, completed an erosion control project in a 100-foot section of the stream. A state grant helped pay to install log structures to divert the water flow from the eroded bank toward the center of the stream.

Some residents said they had sewage back up into their homes along with floodwater. Bowers said she is expecting a representative of the township municipal authority to check her home on Monday for potential sewage problems.

Dorothy Henry claimed a different issue — development of nearby residences without a sufficient storm water catch basin — has contributed to water runoff that affects her Smolleck Street home.

During a recent storm, she said, “I was so scared. It almost came in the kitchen. When it comes, it comes with a force.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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