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Lebanon, PA USA
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Paul Swartz, Middletown PA. Interviewed February 20, 2004 by Betty Conner.
Paul was born in Hershey, PA, but resides in Hummelstown, PA.
o In 1786 Paul’s family settled in Dauphin County in what is now Lower Swatara
Township. Farming was the main occupation in the early years. Some of the Swartz
descendants settled on the east side of the Swatara Creek between Hummels-town and Middletown. Their land contains Indian Echo Caverns which are still privately owned by the family.
o The Union Canal borders the farmland where Paul now lives. A railroad was built along the same route connecting Middletown to Hummelstown, the M&H Railroad or the “Milk and Honey Line” as it was nicknamed. The Agnes Flood of 1972 caused severe damage to the rail bed when high water washed out the ballast. The flood destroyed two covered bridges and an iron bridge.
o The M.O. Swartz property contained a quarry and a lime kiln to produce lime for spreading on the fields. The quarry later became a landfill.
o The changes that Paul has witnessed include the growth of Derry Township from a population of 5,000 to 20,000. There has been much new development, especially along Middletown Road, and the conversion of open fields along 322 into the Hershey Medical Center. Preservation of open space is a concern. The area has become too popular, with good schools and easy access. Planning for parks, trails and recreation is important. A network of greenways and trails can, and probably will, happen.
o Paul has served as Executive Director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commis-sion since 1992. The SRBC was created in 1971 by federal legislation as a special agency based on the principles of watershed sharing and coordination. The SRBC is staffed by 35 members to oversee a geographic area comprising over ½ of Pennsylvania, parts of New York and Maryland, plus the District of Columbia. The mission of the SRBC is,
o The SRBC and the Delaware River Basin Commission are unique among river basin commissions in the US because they have regulatory authority. The DRBC was formed in 1960 and became the model for the SRBC. Creation of the SRBC, a book by William Voight, gives the details of the story. Maurice Goddard was instru-mental in the creation of the SRBC.
o The SRBC, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DEP, and the Capital Region Water Board, completed a water supply study of the Swatara Watershed. The study described recent and prospective growth rates, the history of droughts, including 1999 and 2002, and other conditions related to adequate water supply up to the year 2030. A number of alternatives were presented for meeting the need for water during a “drought of record” by the year 2030.
o In December 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Water Resources Planning Act, creating a process to: update the State Water Plan, require registration of water withdrawals greater than 100 thousand gallons per day, establish a Statewide Planning Commit-tee and six Regional Planning Commit-tees, and identify critical water resource areas where demand may exceed supply.
o In conclusion, Paul said that the Swatara Creek corridor is remarkable for the amount of open space of farms, forest and riparian land in spite of the amount of development in the watershed over the past 200 years. Paul has a desire to protect the Swatara because it has special meaning for his family. “Do whatever is necessary to preserve it.”
o He said that the Swatara Creek Watershed Association has done a good job, over the past decade, of raising public awareness of the values of this wonderful natural resource.
Ed Keener with contributions from Mr. David Etter, president of the Lebanon Water Authority. Interview on 9/13/04 by Jo Ellen Litz.
Ed is a civil engineer whose service to the Lebanon Water Authority spans 38 years. His profession placed him in charge of the water system for Lebanon. Ed explained how water is drawn from both the Swatara Creek near Jonestown, Lebanon County and the Highbridge Reservoir in Schuylkill County.
Originally coming to Philadelphia, then settling in Lebanon PA, Ed’s great grandparents came to the United States from Germany. They ran a brewery industry where they were hooked to the public water supply in the town of Lebanon.
Effects of the Agnes flood of 1972 were harsh on the Lebanon Water Authority. The old filtration plant, originally built by Fort Indiantown Gap and the army and given to the Authority, ended up seven feet under water. Prior to the flood, 50% of the water was drawn from Swatara Creek and 50% from the Highbridge Reservoir. Swatara Creek water was filtered, but Highbridge water went through the system unfiltered.
At any rate, the storm knocked out the intake on the Swatara, and the old filtration system was ruined. All water was taken from Highbridge until intake repairs were completed. A concerted effort completed the new filtration plant out of the flood plain, just north of Sandhill. From this point in time, all water from both Highbridge and Swatara Creek is filtered.
Today, about 85% of the Authority’s water comes from Highbridge and 15% comes from the Swatara. Even though a balloon type dam at the overflow of Highbridge can temporarily raise the water level of the Reservoir, the 30” line from Highbridge limits the amount of water that can be taken from Highbridge. To meet demand, after five or six days of draw from Highbridge, supplemental water must be drawn from the Swatara Creek.
With $32 million in funding from five agencies, including the federal government and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Hazel Dyke was also built as a result of Agnes. The Dyke runs from the Quittapahilla Creek to Fourth Street, Brandywine runs from the Quittapahilla to Twelfth Street; then Hazel Street from Lincoln Avenue to State Drive; and four to five years ago, Senator Brightbill helped to secure funds to complete the last section. The system is designed to withstand a 100-year storm. The southern part of the City of Lebanon, where everything was under water, may be saved in another storm the magnitude of Agnes. Even the Municipal Building at 400 South 8th Street had water in the basement. And the parking lot to the south west of the Municipal building was inundated. It took three weeks to pump out the former low spot.
Ice jambs are also a concern when running the Lebanon Water Authority. During Ed’s tenure, two or three jambs blocked the intake. Highbridge must be used when blockage of the intake occurs. Using long poles, personnel must manually push the ice blocks over the low-head dam, away from the intake. Eventually, the ice melts or rain raises the water level so that the ice floats downstream.
Because both the intake on the Swatara Creek and the Highbridge Reservoir are outside of a ten-mile radius of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, the TMI disaster had little impact on the Lebanon Water Authority. However, the Authority was placed on alert.
After Highbridge Reservoir tripled its capacity from 400 million gallons to 1.1 billion gallons by building a second dam breast downstream of the original breast, droughts weren’t as hard on the Lebanon Water Authority. The reservoir was renamed for Christian E. Siegrist. Ironically, the new breast is at the site proposed for the original breast. The location was moved upstream when the Lebanon Water Authority was unsuccessful in acquiring the old railroad bridge. Six months after Highbridge was completed, the railroad closed. By the way, the old dam breast stands in its original location, but is inundated by 32’ of water. When a drought is expected, to conserve water in the Siegrist Reservoir, water is drawn from the Swatara Creek.
We have come through the last eight or nine years pretty well, but if a drought lasts two to three years, we will come up short on water. With increased demand, we must find a new supply of water within the next ten years. Ed recommends a combination of the following:
In Ed’s opinion, none of the other suggestions in the Susquehanna River Basin Commission study are feasible, including potential sources at Cornwall or Rexmont.
The Authority services nine municipalities. Some of the largest users of water from the Authority include:
¨ PA American Water Company who purchases water from the Lebanon Water Authority;
¨ The Veteran’s Administration Hospital;
¨ The Good Samaritan Hospital;
¨ The County of Lebanon….
Fort Indiantown Gap can be a large user, but usage varies depending on activity at the Gap. When Cuban and Vietnamese Refugees were housed at FIG, water usage was high.
Ed observes water wars in the west, and says that development will dictate when the water wars hit our area.
The most significant pollution incident on the Swatara Creek involved a release of gasoline near Pine Grove. The gasoline got into the filtration system, and the Authority had to shut down. After flushing the system, Highbridge was used for a week or so. Once again, Wengert’s trucked water into the County. Conversely, the biggest threat of pollution to Highbridge was beavers near Jeff’s Swamp. These small critters can produce a giardi cyst that can make humans violently ill. The beavers were trapped and moved from the area. Smaller pollution incidents were “caught” in time to switch to the Siegrist Reservoir before the filtration system became saturated.
The Swatara Creek Watershed Association’s Susquehanna River Basin Commission map package/sample data created with PADEP Growing Greener funds.
Denise Donmoyer, Pine Grove, Schuylkill County President, Sweet Arrow Lake Conservation Association. Sweet Arrow Lake was built in 1923 to supply 1,000,000 gallons of water/day to produce steam to turn turbines at a power plant to create electricity.
March 2004 - EELS Interview Teasers
Ed Chubb, Harrisburg (Dauphin County)
Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, Mt. Gretna, Lebanon
Aging infrastructure was a priority of FIG’s EIS. A new sewer line and plant are now complete. In fact, East Hanover Township is considered for hookup onto FIG’s system.