The Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority (BCWSA) sued the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), asking a Common Pleas Court judge to order that state agency to immediately begin repairs to a New Hope bridge so that it can reopen within seven days.
The closed Upper Union Mills bridge that crosses the Delaware River Canal is needed for utility vehicle access to the New Hope Waterworks Condominium and a water treatment facility that BCWSA owns on that property between the canal and the Delaware River.
After an inspection on June 8, the DCNR closed the bridge, which cut off the water utility’s only means to access its water treatment plant to make emergency repairs and replace pumps.
The DCNR stated in a letter to the condominium association that it would make temporary repairs to re-open access for BCWSA. However, work on the bridge has not been performed since it was closed, and the repairs report has not been provided. Usually, the water company employees visit the plant two or three times a month. But if repairs are needed now, the suit said there is no way for the utility vehicles to get to the water plant.
So, BCWSA is seeking court intervention to resolve the issue.
“The water treatment facility is critical infrastructure for the residents and businesses of New Hope Borough and the surrounding communities. BCWSA needs to be able to access the facility with the correct equipment and machinery to conduct maintenance and any necessary repairs to provide water for residents, businesses, the Delaware River Canal and fire suppression,” said John Cordisco, chair of BCWSA’s board of directors.
Without the bridge, the Waterworks Condominium has only one entrance over a second bridge that leads directly into a parking garage. The clearance in that garage is too low for emergency vehicles.
“The condo community is prone to flooding, and emergency evacuations can be expected,” said Cordisco. “Services will be delayed in responding to emergency situations, whether it’s flooding, a fire or any other serious incident in the community, risking life and property.”
“Delayed maintenance and repair, especially as we enter hurricane and flooding season for Bucks County, may lead to more serious mechanical issues, breakdowns and even system failures in the New Hope plant, which will cause BCWSA and its ratepayers to pay more money to fix (it),” the suit said.
BCWSA provides water service to 2,600 customers in New Hope Borough. The water treatment facility provides fresh drinking water to residents as well as water to DCNR for use in the Delaware River Canal, helping to alleviate mosquito populations.
The water company and condominium association have repeatedly requested reports and updates from DCNR about the bridge closure, and state Sen. Steve Santarsiero’s office has been mediating.
“It is crucial that we have all the information in front of us and know exactly what repairs are needed,” said Cordisco. “This has been an ongoing issue that needs to be resolved immediately.”
Wesley Robinson, a spokesperson for DCNR, said the department declined to comment about the litigation. A hearing on the matter had yet to be scheduled as of Friday.