Sewer break at senior center closes part of East Main Street

JOHNSTOWN – The city today continued to deal with a sewer line break that occurred Friday and a sinkhole at the Johnstown Senior Citizens Center property.

The city has had to close East Main Street from 30A to South Chase Street in what City Engineer Chandra Cotter said is one of the biggest sewer breaks the city has ever experienced.

“It’s one of the toughest ones I’ve ever experienced,” Cotter told the Common Council on Monday.

The city has been grappling with flooding issues from the Comrie Creek in that area and is currently seeking engineering proposals for a study. Cotter said the impetus behind her work has been complaints from neighbors about flooding since last fall, and this problem crystalizes the situation.

Cotter said an 18-inch sewer line pipe burst Friday off East Main Street near the access road to the senior center. She said culverts in that area were compromised where creek water flows. The city Department of Public Works is now dealing with a sinkhole on senior center property and is trying to fix the pipe problem.

“The hole is only going to get larger,” Cotter said.

She predicted at least two or three more days of work, which involves fixing the foundation walls of the creek.

The senior center is located at 109 E. Main St., and Misty Palmateer – a neighbor whose home is at 107 E. Main St. – vented frustration before the council Monday night. She said her yard is “all dug up,” and the situation is a dangerous public safety issue, especially for kids.

“I kind of want to know what’s going on,” she said. “Is someone going to do something? My yard is caving in. Eventually, it’s going to collapse.”

“Our main [priority] is to fix the sewer problem,” Cotter said. “We have it flagged, we have the caution tape around it.”

Police Chief Mark Gifford said he will periodically send an officer to that area for security.

Cotter told Palmateer proposals the city is seeking for a creek study will address the culvert in question that caused the East Main Street problem.

“Anything we disturb, we will put back,” she said.

Second Ward Councilwoman Kathi Iannotti asked if if it is safe to leave the senior center open.

Cotter said there is access to the building from Prindle Avenue, although the main entrance is closed, and signs can be put up regarding pedestrian traffic.