Swamp Road collapse causes flooding and outages

Courtesy of Gloucester County Emergency Management.
The collapse was caused by clogged water mitigation piping that also resulted in a major flood.

A portion of Swamp Road in Mullica Hill suddenly collapsed on March 15, creating a sinkhole and causing massive flooding.

The collapse also resulted in a power outage, and access to the road had to be cut off. No injuries or property damage were reported.

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According to the township, clogged pipes running underneath the road caused the early-morning collapse. An estimated half a million gallons of water – according to Gloucester County Emergency Management – was spilled into nearby woods, then made its way into Raccoon Creek.

Emergency services from both the township and county arrived on scene at around 8 a.m. to handle the aftermath.

“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,” said Mayor Louis Manzo in a community message on the day of the incident.

Manzo was on site around the time emergency services arrived, 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. Police and fire personnel were also on hand.

“As is the protocol in these emergency situations,” Manzo said, “the county OEM Director, Jack DeAngelo, took the lead on site.”

The flooding also compromised a bridge, blocking access into and out of the area where three homes sit on Swamp Road. Their residents were evacuated, and one of them, Jeff Clayton, described the scene.

“My wife just heard a tree collapse and water running” he said. “”The road coming in is gone. There’s no access to houses due to bridges being compromised and roads being blocked off.”

According to Clayton, the pipes have been clogged for at least the past two years, and he and other residents have warned the township that something like a collapse could occur.

“We’ve been complaining about this for years,” Clayton noted. “We said this could happen and access in and out would be blocked off. I outlined in a letter to the township what could happen if it doesn’t get addressed. I told them that the best way to avoid a catastrophe is to get down there and just clear the pipes. We were told that the township couldn’t get down to the pipes.”

Electricity and water utilities were restored at the scene at around 6 p.m., according to the Harrison Township Fire Department, but access is still an issue in the area and a new water mitigation system needs to be added to avoid another incident, the department added.

“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,” Manzo said. “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.”

The Harrison Township committee discussed the collapse at its March 18 meeting. Find the story on Page ….

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