Flood waters raise concerns at council meeting

When it rains, it pours – or at least that was the case for much of the summer in Moorestown, and when the rain came down, the waters rose up at the intersection of Locust Street and Kenilworth Avenue and into some residents’ backyards along Kenilworth. At Monday night’s Moorestown Township Council meeting, a representative from Pennoni Engineering gave an informal presentation discussing how the township can help alleviate the recurring flooding issues.

Ken Shine, a project manager with Pennoni Engineering, said the flooding is the result of a confluence of factors. He said first and foremost, the heavy rain events are the main factor behind the poor drainage residents are seeing. He said even a perfect drainage system would flood given the volume of precipitation Moorestown has experienced recently.

However, the system is not operating at optimum capacity, according to Shine. Over time, stormwater has left the drainage path silted in, and in turn, the pipes are experiencing silt buildup. Additionally, when the water levels rapidly rise, the drainage path experiences soil erosion, which further silts the path and leads to blockages.

Shine said the drainage path starts at the top of Locust Street to the Conrail intersection at Kenilworth and continues to flow north under North Church Street before eventually discharging into a ditch on North Church that leads to the Pompeston Creek. 

He said the township has heard complaints from residents along the affected route – particularly Kenilworth Avenue – who are experiencing the water backing up in the drainage basins on their property. Some of these residents are experiencing grass and soil erosion on their properties as a result of the overflow.

The township regularly sweeps the streets to try to keep the pathway clear from silt and other debris, and they also perform annual inspections on the path. However, the gradual silt buildup has gotten to a point where the path needs to be dredged to restore the ditches and pipes to full capacity, Shine said. 

Township Manager Thomas Neff said the intersection at Locust and Kenilworth has been the most visibly problematic with many of the stormwater drains blocked. He said the area floods during every storm with the water rising so high that cars can get stuck there. 

However, some of the property at that intersection – around 1,500 feet – is owned by Conrail. Neff said Conrail has the right of way at that intersection, and so they’ve met with them about participating in their cleanup efforts. He said they’re hoping Conrail might contribute and help mitigate some of the costs. Without Conrail’s contribution, the township is looking at an estimated $400,000 in work, Neff said. 

“I think it’s a consensus of folks on staff that this is one of the areas where flooding is really, truly problematic,” Neff said. “It’s a public safety issue for the town.” 

Douglas Nims, director of public works, said his department can take on some of the roadwork, but the Conrail and private properties along the route are outside their jurisdiction. He said the township will have to get agreements in place to work on these private properties.

Councilmen Brian Donnelly and Michael Locatell said the township should actively pursue getting Conrail to contribute to their efforts. Donnelly said Conrail is not maintaining the area the way they need to, which is in turn affecting the township. 

Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano asked if the township has any educational program in place to inform residents with a drainage ditch on their property how to properly maintain it. 

“If I bought a piece of property with a drainage ditch on it, I don’t think I would know what to do with it,” Napolitano said.

Nims said the Department of Environmental Protection will be putting a regulation in place soon that requires the township to notify people with drainage ponds that they must have their ponds inspected annually and send the township the report as evidence. 

Council agreed to move forward with the project and to continue looking into ways to mitigate the costs. 

“It won’t be an easy lift,” Neff said.

The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.