Groups meet to talk flooding

EBENSBURG – Officials could know as soon as this afternoon the extent of work that will be necessary to ameliorate the chronic flooding problem along Candlelight Drive near Route 22.

A damaged pipe and inadequate drainage system under a nearby Uni-Mart convenience store has long been thought to be the cause of frequent flooding, plaguing residents and motorists for years, but an engineering report showed the

problem may extend further.

“We wanted to investigate not just the area immediately around the Uni-Mart and down towards Route 22, but as much of it as we could, all the way up through the Borough of Ebensburg,” said Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister.

To discuss the issue, DEP organized a closed, multi-group meeting Wednesday afternoon at Cambria County Conservation District, which included representatives from DEP, PennDOT, Cambria Township and Ebensburg Borough, along with Uni-Mart’s property owner, Leo Alex Oswald, and consulting engineers from Cambria County and Lehigh Gas Corp., which leases the Uni-Mart property and

submitted the engineering report.

Poister said the meeting discussed a DEP enforcement action to clean out and repair a culvert as an immediate fix, along with other possible solutions.

“The area in front of the Uni-Mart … is clearly a problem,” Poister said, and DEP will oversee work done to clean out the blockage, which may include repositioning fallen riprap: large, heavy stones used to prevent scour and erosion.

He said there also was discussion of adding a sleeve, or another culvert, to sit inside the existing one to deal with deterioration.

Work could begin by next week and may fix the flooding problem entirely, Poister said.

However, to fully address the flooding problem, the borough, township and county also will be working with PennDOT to test the runoff capacity of the pipes connected to the culvert, some of which are undersized, to see whether additional work needs to be done.

“The long-range plan basically is still up in the air, but we at least have a framework of how to get there now,” Poister said.

But any extra potential repairs would be “relatively small” compared to the culvert issue, said Ebensburg Borough Manager Dan Penatzer. “We may not have to do anything else” if the tests show that the culvert can handle water during peak flow, he said.

But if there is extra work, Penatzer and Cambria Township Supervisors’ Chairman Robert Shook said all involved groups will work together.

“The risk here is public safety, and private and public property. Everybody’s going to want to get it taken care of,” Penatzer said.

Poister said it’s too soon to get a cost-estimate of the culvert work or the flow tests to the connected pipes, but he said the meeting at least allowed the parties to develop a plan.

“There is a sense of urgency to get rolling on this,” he said. “Nobody wants to let it go. … I would just say they really want to get this done and settled. I don’t think anybody wants to see another flood there.”