Several East Fifth Street property owners appeared before Northampton Borough Council on Thursday, December 21 to demand answers after their properties were severely damaged following a pipe burst in Cedar Alley on November 26.
Casey and Eric Sbat were two such homeowners who shared their experiences over the past month. The couple, who also have a young child, are now forced to clean up the damage left behind after an estimated tens of thousands of gallons of water flowed through their basement.
“This is the community we chose…to raise a family of our own…[but] we have truly been failed by this community,” Casey Sbat said in a statement to council. She appeared before council, she said, so that councilmembers could “put a name to a face [and] a family to a home.”
She said over 20 individuals were contacted, with no follow-ups or resolutions offered.
“Every expert outside of this borough let us know their hands were tied,” she continued.
She estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of water per week have flowed into the family’s basement and first floor since November 26.
Her husband, Eric, said the family has lived in the borough for six years and has never had water in their basement. Starting on November 26, the family first noticed the water but attributed it to a storm. However, when the water continued to rise, they knew something more had occurred. The water, they noticed, was coming from Cedar Alley, behind their home. When the water authority was contacted, they said there was an underground spring. Sbat called 811 and received permission to dig. Engineers the family hired found no spring and instead attributed the flooding to a burst pipe. Despite these findings, the Sbat family claims the water authority did not respond.
“I just spent 25 days not sleeping trying to save our house,” Eric told council.
Melissa Lemmerman, another East Fifth Street property owner, has lived in the borough for 21 years without any water issues.
Now, she says, “My sump pump runs and never stops.”
“We don’t have backyards anymore…they’re wet all the time,” she continued, expressing worries that a sinkhole will soon form. “We don’t want to get blown off anymore or hung up on.”
In total five properties have been impacted.
Eric Sbat said the borough fixed a pipe at Cedar Alley on December 20, and there was a noticeable decrease in water. However, when he approached a member of the water authority, someone he says he met with several times, they asked who he was and wondered why the issue was never reported.
“It was like a big game,” he said.
The Sbats and Lemmerman are asking for reimbursement for the expenses they’ve accrued over the last month to save their properties and are asking the borough to accept accountability.
“I am sorry for your pain,” said Councilwoman Judy Kutzler. She immediately called for a roundtable discussion between the property owners, the borough administration and borough council representatives.
“I, as a member of the water authority [committee], will be looking into…what could have possibly caused this,” added Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski Sr. “If it can be rectified, it will.”
“I assure you when I leave here, a call is being made,” continued Councilman Ronald Glassic.
The next council meeting will be a reorganization meeting on Tuesday, January 2 at 7 p.m., and the next regular borough council meeting will be Thursday, January 18 at 7 p.m.