Scranton, DEP officials tell flood victims no easy answers, no quick fixes to stormwater problems

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Jun. 25—SCRANTON — City and state Department of Environmental Protection officials told North Scranton flooding victims there are no easy answers or quick fixes to stormwater problems.

Several city officials and a DEP representative met with seven residents Thursday on Leggett Street to discuss stormwater issues that last month flooded Leach and Leggetts creeks.

The group met for about an hour on Leggett Street, where Leach Creek empties into Leggetts Creek. The meeting stemmed from flooding on May 4, when a storm dumped about 4 inches of rain in three hours.

On that night, Leach Creek overspilled its bank and flooded an inground swimming pool and backyard of Ellen and Rick Scango of Yard Avenue. The Scangos blamed the backup on a prior city DPW repair job of an underground pipe that funnels Leach Creek under West Market Street. City officials said they replaced an old collapsed 4-foot-diameter pipe with a new one of the same diameter in October on an emergency basis. But after the May 4 deluge, the DEP said the city did that pipe work without a state permit.

Meanwhile, Leggetts Creek also spilled over May 4 and swamped several homes along Leggett Street.

Leggett Street residents want Leggetts Creek dredged to carve a deeper channel to handle heavy rain. The Scangos also think Leach Creek should be dredged.

"We're asking for help," Rick Scango said.

But the city and state officials, including Michael Sames, engineering field representative for the Waterways and Wetlands Program of the DEP Northeast Regional Office; Scranton DPW Director Tom Preambo; DPW Emergency Control Manager Chris Jenkins and city Engineer John Pocius, said the recent flooding reflects long-standing stormwater problems throughout the city and region.

The state does not fund dredging projects because they're viewed as "Band-Aids," Sames said. Even if dredging were done, it would be based on a cost-benefit analysis, and there are not that many homes in these immediate areas of Leggetts and Leach creeks, he said.

Leggett Street resident George Koslansky said Leggetts Creek used to be dredged many years ago. If that was merely temporary, it worked and should be done again and repeated periodically.

Council President Bill Gaughan asked the DPW officials if they intended to pursue dredging.

"We're not 100% sure we'll be removing sediment," Jenkins said.

The city's priority is resolving Leach Creek under West Market Street, Jenkins said. This waterway is channeled through a 5-foot by 10-foot conduit that goes under a building at the corner.

Somewhere under West Market Street, the 5- by 10-foot conduit funnels into a 4-foot diameter pipe. The city replaced a 4-foot-diameter pipe because officials feared a larger collapse chewing into West Market Street, Pocius said.

The Scangos asked why the city simply doesn't just put in a larger conduit to channel Leach Creek under the road.

"You just can't do that" readily, Jenkins said, noting the state Department of Transportation would have to get involved.

The conversation got heated at times. Ellen Scango told Jenkins that his only answers are "no, no, no." Jenkins defended himself.

Preambo stressed the DPW would do whatever it could, within the constraints of limited funding, manpower and authority, to address stormwater problems.

"We understand. We hear you," Preambo said.

City Business Administrator Larry West also told the residents, "We'll keep this front and center."

Pocius noted that hydrology and stormwater problems involve a combination of many factors. Every storm incident also is unique and cannot be compared to each other, Sames said. Generally, storms have become more intense, delivering more rain in shorter amounts of time than before, Sames said.

"I can only attribute it to changing weather conditions," Sames said.

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