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Investigation: Officials blame DEP ruling for current flooding

By Maria Miller

BOSWELL, Pa. -- The Somerset town of Boswell has dealt with flash flooding damage twice in the past two months, the most recent being Wednesday.

Town officials said the sudden problems with the flooding are because of a mandate issued last year by the state Department of Environmental Protection.  

The boroughs water authority said an old, abandoned reservoir sitting in the woods above the town helped collect water from spring run-off and heavy summer downpours.  Those town officials said they were told the DEP felt the reservoir posed a bigger threat should it break and flood the town below.

It was just two pipes bringing the water out of the reservoir, Tony Deluca with the Boswell Water Authority said.  It never got to the top and came over the spill way.  It hasn't come over the spillway in 45 years since they closed it never any blockage; never any problems.

Deluca said the DEP told the borough to spend thousands of dollars to create an emergency action plan or destroy the dam.  

The DEP finally came out and told us it was going to be a $10,000 fine against us and $500 every day we didn't do something, he said.  So we had to breach the dam last year.

The reservoir was a 10-million gallon retention pond, in the past used for drinking water for the borough.

They felt that if it filled up with water and the dam broke, it would flood out the borough, Deluca said.  So we flooded out the borough by doing what they wanted us to do.

A DEP spokesperson contacted 6 News Wednesday afternoon.  He said the dam was not designed for flood control and it was in bad shape.  He said the agency worried about what would happen if the dam gave way during a bad storm.

He said a DEP inspector is on the way to assess the damage and issue any emergency permits to help with the cleanup process.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times