Water built up by clogged pipes led to road collapse in Mullica Hill, New Jersey

Saturday, March 16, 2024
Water built up by clogged pipes led to road collapse in Mullica Hill
Water built up by clogged pipes led to road collapse in Mullica Hill, New Jersey

MULLICA HILL, N.J. (WPVI) -- Clogged pipes are to blame for a road collapse early Friday morning in the community of Mullica Hill in Harrison Township, New Jersey, officials said.

Mayor Louis Manzo said calls started coming in around 7:30 a.m. that Swamp Road, a small private road in a wooded area, was washed out.

Manzo explained that Swamp Road is carried over a ravine by an embankment that is some 40 to 50 feet high.

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In that embankment were pipes in a culvert that allowed water to flow through.

Over time, Manzo said, those pipes had become clogged, allowing water to build up on one side of the embankment.

Then, Friday morning, the water pressure became too great and it blew out the embankment, washing away part of Swamp Road.

Officials now say millions of gallons of water then flowed through the woods and into Raccoon Creek.

Mayor Lou Manza holds a news conference on the road collapse in Mullica Hill, New Jersey

Manzo said there were no injuries and the current assessment is that there was no property damage. However, water service and power are currently out, and officials are working on restoration.

They will also determine whether those residents will need to be temporarily relocated.

Manzo said there are four other roadway structures that are being evaluated due to the torrent of water, including a small bridge that connects Swamp Road to Mill Road and two culverts that go under Raccoon Creek.

The mayor says he had declared a state of emergency because of the magnitude of the damage here.

Neighbors on Arbour Lane, near the washout, say they heard the collapse.

"A really, really loud - almost like a big huge bang, like explosion-type sound," said resident Maria Kreh.

Voitk Truszczynski owns one of the three homes on Swamp Road and watched the creek in his backyard transform into a river.

"There was like maybe 10-15 feet of water here, but it was like rushing down like a tsunami," he said. "There's a lot of debris. There is a lot of glass bottles and stuff. So it's kind of hazardous right now."

Mayor Manzo says sections of the road are privately owned, and a section of the road was recently acquired by the township. He says this old drainage system has its challenges.

"This is something that was put in place many, many years ago, decades ago, that needed to be addressed. We have heard those complaints and it's something that we did not address up until this point," he said.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is working with Gloucester County officials to determine the next steps.