Committee discusses fixes for Swamp Road collapse

Joseph Metz/The Sun

The Swamp Road collapse that took place on March 15 and caused massive flooding was a major topic of discussion at the Harrison Township Committee meeting three days later.

The committee focused on what repairs can be done at the site and what it would take to prevent similar occurrences in the future. There were no injuries reported, nor was there any property damage to three nearby homes.

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“There’s a lot of restrictions on what can be put back there,” said Township Engineer Dennis McNulty of possible fixes. “There’s quite a bit of time frames that need to be met if we do an emergency authorization. It might be better to pause improving what was already back there if we are going to restore it back, having more of a two-way access and sidewalks.

“All of those things wouldn’t fall under an emergency permit,” he added. “It would be something that (would) take a long time to do all the permitting and design associated with it. Really it’d be very difficult to not increase it by more than 10% than what it is now.

“It’s really a complicated situation.”

The collapse occurred at around 7:30 a.m. and was caused by decades worth of clogged water mitigation piping that suddenly burst, creating a massive sinkhole and spilling 500 million gallons of water into nearby woods, according to Gloucester County Emergency Management.

“There’s an enormous amount (of debris) just in the area by the breach when I walked it today,” said Township Administrator Dennis Chambers. “There’s an enormous amount of glass, bottles, trash, car parts – you name it.”

The collapse also caused a power outage that lasted until around 6:30 p.m., according to the Harrison Township Fire Department. The township worked closely with the county EMS and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“I just can’t say enough for the support for the Gloucester County Office of Emergency Management,” Manzo noted. “They were there all day and set up a command post, as is the protocol in that situation.

“The director of the Office of Emergency Management, Jack DiAngelo, at the county level, took over the leadership role and coordinated things as the rest of our crew, public works, the police department, the fire department, were there dealing with the situation.”

According to Manzo, the work of responders and their cooperation with each other was “something to behold.” He also said several state representatives had reached out to him in support of the township.

“As Dennis (Chambers) said today, the natural thing that happens is that everything recedes and dries out,” Manzo explained. “Water coming from upstream will find its way and create a new path, probably very similar to the old path, except there’s now much more area where it’s overflowing and blowing out.

“We have an ongoing process with the DEP to determine what that path will look like.”

The township expects to have a “good handle” on repairs to the road at the next committee meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 1.

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