Hightstown Flooding Causes Widespread Damage
Boil advisory continues to be in affect.
Hightstown Borough Council voted to declare an emergency and lifted the fee for bulk trash pickup in wake of massive flooding from Hurricane Irene.
The Borough Council passed both with a 6-0 vote Monday night.
Cleanup has begun in areas hit hard by floodwaters, including Borough Hall, the police department, the water plant and several businesses downtown.
“I’ve personally never seen water come in that fast,” said Larry Van Kirk, fire chief and office of emergency management coordinator, referring to how fast floodwaters inundated the firehouse.
Flooding didn’t stop the Hightstown Fire Department from operating, Van Kirk said.
“Fire suppression was never in jeopardy, at all, in the borough of Hightstown,” Van Kirk said at the council meeting. “We never refused to go to a fire call in this town.”
Borough Hall was declared “structurally sound” and cleanup efforts have begun.
“In the last 24 hours we have made astounding accomplishments in getting Borough Hall up and running so that we can serve the residents of this town,” said Borough Clerk Debra Sopronyi.
Some residents criticized the borough saying not enough was done to prevent Peddie Lake from overflowing. Officials disagreed and said measures were taken to prevent flooding but it was unstoppable.
“We took precautions for more than a hundred years storm,” said Council President Lawrence Quattrone, who also served as acting mayor while Mayor Steve Kirson was on vacation.
Quattrone said the dam was opened and they did everything they could.
“When the wall gave way we had a surge of water that was just unbelievably, couldn’t handle it. It was like turning the lake loose,” Quattrone said.
Town services are being offered at the Hightstown Public Works building starting Tuesday where Borough Hall will be temporarily set up.
Township officials said volunteers have been a valuable part of the cleanup effort and reiterated the amount of help Home Depot, Peddie School, East Windsor School District, East Windsor Township and other volunteers have provided by sending manpower and equipment.
"They've [East Windsor Township] lent us trucks. They've lent us main power," Quattrone said. "They've been a very great neighbor."
Residents should continue to boil water, officials said. Water samples will be taken tomorrow and it typically takes 24 hours for preliminary results, 48 hours for final results. If final results come back clean, the boil notice can be lifted.
The boil notice comes after the water treatment plant was inundated with water and the possibility the water is contaminated.
This does not mean showers are out of the questions, according to Sharon Lane, public health nurse for the Borough. Lane advises the water should not be ingested while showering, and children should be supervised so they do not ingest water.
Officials are also asking that residents conserve water as much as possible until the plant is back to its capacity.
“We’re not saying to you ‘don’t shower,’ use it minimally,” Quattrone said, reminding residents to conserve water as much as possible.
Larry Blake, lead operator at the Township’s water plant, said everything was destroyed in the flood, with up to 13 feet of water in the basement.
“We lost everything in there, all the controls and motors,” Blake said.
Blake is keeping his fingers crossed that manual operation of the plant will be viable this week, however complete automation of operations will take awhile.
The fire department is trying to help conserve water by bringing in tankers to fight any fires that may arise, according to Van Kirk.
The police department was also flooded and 9-1-1 calls are being routed through Cranbury until the department sets up a temporary station at Lucas Electric, on Mercer Street, said Hightstown police Sgt. Frank Gendron.
Temporary 9-1-1 lines are trying to be brought to Lucas Electric today, Gendron said.
The police have received assistance from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office with manpower and using their trailer as a temporary station where officers can charge radios and use the bathroom.
Officers are working overtime to collect confidential records from the destroyed police department and seal them so they can be moved, Gendron said.
Several businesses remain closed, but ones that are open are in compliance with the Board of Health.
“As of now all establishments are in compliance,” Lane said. “If they’re closed, they’re closed voluntarily.”
Molto Bene Caffe e Mercato Italiano announced on Facebook Monday they will be closed until further notice from storm damage.
“Thank you thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone that came out today to lend a hand,” Molto Bene wrote on its Facebook page. “It was a great start but there is a lot more to go. Any help in the upcoming days is greatly appreciated. We will be at Molto Bene tomorrow [Tuesday] by 8 a.m.”
Tavern on the Lake thanked volunteers for helping clean up on its Facebook page, and said they will open Tuesday.
“Not sure what kind of menu there will be, but the bar will be open tomorrow at 11:30 [a.m.] and we will be serving dinner starting at 5 p.m.!!,” Tavern on the Lake wrote on its Facebook page.