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Flooding prompts plan for Unity stream improvement

Jeff Himler
| Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, 11:42 a.m.
Floodwater fills the backyard of Ed Miller Oct. 4, 2018, along Unity Cemetery Road in Lloydsville, Unity Township.
Floodwater fills the backyard of Ed Miller Oct. 4, 2018, along Unity Cemetery Road in Lloydsville, Unity Township.

Unity officials say they’ll do what they can this year to improve the flow of a stream that residents believe contributes to flooding woes in the village of Whitney.

State environmental regulations prevent the township from dredging the tributary to Ninemile Run — a measure that has been suggested by some residents, Chairman John Mylant said.

Referring to obstructions in the stream, Mylant said “we’re allowed to remove anything, but we’re not allowed to go in and dig.”

“We can go in and tie a chain around a big log and have our machine up on the creek bank,” Supervisor Ed Poponick said. “We just can’t have the machine go down in the water.”

Ground around the stream might not support such equipment, Mylant said.

“You can’t get a machine anywhere near there, it’s so soft,” he said.

Homes along Leachman Road, which borders the stream, have been among the hardest hit in Whitney during recent flooding triggered by heavy rainfall. Some have criticized development on the grounds of the Living Hope Church, located across the creek from Leachman, arguing that it pushes more water toward the homes.

Mylant said officials at the church have offered to organize volunteers to help with work on the stream.

“The church is also working directly with some of the homeowners,” township solicitor Gary Falatovich said.

Church officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

“Whatever we’re physically able to do, legally we can do it,” Mylant said of the proposed stream work. “We’re going to do it this year.”

On Thursday, supervisors heard the flooding plight of neighbors who live in two homes at a low point on the Unity Cemetery Road, close to a section of Unity Run in Lloydsville.

Ed Miller said his family’s duplex had 6 feet of water in the basement during a rainstorm Sept. 10, ruining the boiler. A replacement was in place just hours before a second flood hit Oct. 4, ruining it as well, he said. Miller is facing tens of thousands of dollars in debt to recover from his losses, he said, noting his basement has become “a wasted space. I can’t put a single thing in it.”

Neighbor Carol Striker told supervisors she has replaced her furnace and water heater a half dozen times because of floods she’s experienced since 1992. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said. “Everything in my basement is hanging from my ceiling.”

Mylant and Falatovich suggested they check with county officials and with the Westmoreland Conservation District to see if they are eligible for any flood relief programs.

The neighbors expressed concern about the condition of an adjacent, unoccupied home along Unity Run. Miller said the stream bank is eroding there and he’s afraid the house will be swept away in a future storm, causing damage downstream.

Mylant said a township building inspector will look at the home, but Falatovich noted the township doesn’t have jurisdiction to modify a stream bank.

Mylant praised volunteer firefighters who assisted residents affected by recent flooding.

“They really, really had their work cut out for them this year,” he said. “This weather is unreal.”

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

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