Millburn will be dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene for a long time to come, but residents in the South Mountain area want some relief soon from the drainage issues that cause trouble any time it rains and want improvements to a sewer system back up into their homes, leaving them with much more than water to contend with.
The Township Committee on Tuesday night heard thethat the public heard last – with some additions from last week’s storm subcommittee meeting.
Basically, nothing can be done to prevent flooding in a storm the size of Irene, which was bigger than a 100-year storm. But there areas in the neighborhood that are like “bowls” that retain water when it rains and those areas need help.
Mayor Sandy Haimoff said that some of the area, particularly the homes on the river side of Greenwood Drive might not even be helped with the additional drainage and pumping solutions the township is looking into. More will have to be done for those folks, so the storm subcommittee and the engineers will have a “field trip” to the neighborhood on Sunday to talk with residents and look at the area.
"One of the reasons we started with the South Mountain area was because we thought there might be some things we can do on our own there to get started without having to wait to get all the others (counties, state and municipalities) invovled," Haimoff said.
Neighbors, who have developed a civic association since the storm, said they are not confident in the engineers from Hatch Mott MacDonald who have been presenting the township with eight-year-old reports and did the work after Hurricane Floyd.
Neighbors told the township that they were going conduct their own review of the information and requested to have a representative on the subcommittee.
Residents requested a timeline, but Haimoff said Millburn town officials are in the fact-gathering part of the process and that they are reaching out to other municipalities and counties to come up with a plan.
In short, the record amount of rainfall on an already oversaturated area, overwhelmed the rivers, storm sewers and sanitary sewers up and down the Rahway.
Committee member Tom McDermott met with Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties and said that its facility in Elizabeth that normally handles 85 million gallons a day and can handle 120 million gallons a day. During the height of Irene, the meter broke when in reached 220 million gallons.
In addition, it was high tide and it backed up the plant and shut down operation for about 30 minutes when it was great needed.
"It was the perfect storm," he said. "It reached levels they've never had to deal with at the plant. This affected every municipality up and down the river. No sanitary system could handle it."
In addition, some residents were draining their sump pumps into sinks or tubs and that was adding a bigger burden on the system.
"A lot of these sump pump in town are illegal," McDermott said. "We are going to have to address that."