For two weeks raw sewage from an unknown location flowed into a spring-fed stream and then across East Pike in White Township from a 40-by-60-foot former laundromat building belonging to Jeff Bertino.
“It started Election Day,” Bertino said. “I went out, voted in the morning, came back home and smelled sewage. I got spring water and sewage water flowing out from under my building.”
Bertino believes it started when trees were cut down across the road, using large trucks that may have damaged or ruptured a sewage line, though that is speculation.
In turn, the sewage found its way into a cold water stream, an unnamed tributary of Marsh Run. Bertino said it had been flowing fresh for the seven years he has lived there — until earlier this month.
“The whole underneath is full of sewage,” he said Thursday. “I can’t do anything in my building. The whole bottom of the wood is just black mold and mildew.”
“We don’t know where the (sewage) is coming in from,” White Township Municipal Authority Engineer Dan Jageman said. “It is not coming from a township facility.”
It didn’t originate with Bertino’s property.
“In our opinion it is (from) a private property,” Jageman said. “We investigated our sanitary sewer system. There were no issues with our sewer infrastructure. It seems to be a chronic problem.”
Bertino said he did not have a septic system on his property, that it long had been tied into city water. He also saw something coming out that added to the mystery.
“Even if it’s a septic tank, it is not going to have paper towels with pink polar bears on it,” Bertino said. “God only knows what the fish commission is going to make them do with the creek.”
The sewage flow prompted an investigation that involved township cameras televising what’s in the pipes, as well as the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
“White Township came out, ran the camera, they ran from down there clear up to S&T (Bank) Arena (in the nearby township recreation complex),” Bertino said.
“We’re working with White Township as well as DEP to find where the matter is occurring,” said Matt Colian, waterways conservation officer at the PFBC’s Southwest Region Office in Somerset. “We just need to figure out what it is. It is still under investigation.”
Bertino said it may be coming from a farm house that was acquired by Community Guidance Center.
“I know there are sinkholes and everything,” Bertino also observed.
Township officials said there are plans for future development there by CGC.
However, the sewage problem came as a surprise to CGC Chief Executive Officer Darrin Mikula, who said no one has occupied the farm house since CGC bought it in 2011. It’s been locked up since then.
“We’re not flushing toilets, we’re not running water from that house,” Mikula said. “We don’t know where it is coming from.”
Bertino said McCutcheon Enterprises estimated that repairs to his building, now partly used for storage, partly as a garage, may cost $18,000 to $20,000.
Then, after two weeks, the sewage stopped flowing. Bertino said he cut another hole in the floor and found fresh, clean water coming in.
“I no longer have sewage coming into my building,” he said.