Mayor Manzo’s message on Swamp Road flooding

Courtesy of Harrison Township.

Dear Fellow Residents,

At approximately 7:30 a.m. on March 15, we received emergency calls from residents on Swamp Road in Mullica Hill. This is the small, single-lane road connecting Mill Road (by the Old Mill) and the back of Chatham Lane. It was reported that a natural ravine behind Swamp Road, which retains stormwater, had been breached. This caused the water from the ravine to be released, which resulted in washing out a section of the road.

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The exorbitant amount of water (estimated by the County Office of Emergency Management to be more than 500 million gallons) rushed downstream in what is naturally a small flowing tributary that connects to Raccoon Creek at Mill Road. This amount of water obviously overflowed the normally 15-foot-wide banks of the tributary creek which washed out the nearby wooded area before flowing into the wider section of Raccoon Creek.

Activating the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) System:
This event immediately triggered our local Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to become operational, along with the County and State OEMs, who were on the scene promptly. I’ve been on site since 8 a.m., along with Deputy Mayor Lawrence Moore, Township Administrator Dennis Chambers, Police Chief Ron Cundey, Fire Chief Matt Cardile and Harrison Township OEM Coordinator Ken Powell, along with multiple members of our local Police and Fire Department personnel. As is the protocol in these emergency situations, the County OEM Director, Jack DeAngelo, took the lead on site.

Accessing the Damage:
There are three homes on Swamp Road, which sit on higher ground above the tributary that lost electricity and water service, as well as homes on Chatham Lane that lost power. As always, resident safety is our first focus, and we quickly determined that there were no injuries, nor was there an immediate or ongoing danger. Accessing the damage and restoring services to these homes became the priority. Additionally, an evaluation of the impact of the water flow downstream and the structural integrity of the surrounding roads, culverts, and bridges commenced.

Officials from the NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and our Township Engineer were on site to conduct these inspections. Over the next several hours, teams from AC Electric, NJ American Water, and Pioneer Pipe Contractors evaluated the situation and began operations to restore electricity and water service. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) provided consultation on how to proceed with evaluating the streambed and environmental impacts of the event. By early afternoon, it was determined that water and electricity would be restored by this evening, the integrity of all surrounding infrastructure was sound, and the assessment of downstream impacts produced no findings.

On the advice of the County OEM, Ken Powell (Harrison Township OEM Coordinator) and I signed a Local Emergency Proclamation at 2:30 p.m. This will allow us to expedite the process in moving forward with repairs and restoration while making us eligible for any potential State and Federal assistance. We are also filing an emergency application with the NJDEP to ensure immediate attention to this restoration project under their guidelines.

I want to thank all the individuals and agencies that were involved, especially our Harrison Township and Gloucester County OEM teams. Though we hope to avoid emergencies of this kind, we take solace in knowing that there is a rapid and effective response plan in place. We will work in the coming days to evaluate the best path forward in restoring this area with an efficient water mitigation system while maintaining the environmental charm that exists in the area.

I am thankful to report that there were no injuries.

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