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Pa. investigating potential health hazard from sinkhole - abc27 WHTM

Pa. investigating possible health hazard from Harrisburg sinkhole

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

The state Department of Environmental Protection has told abc27 News that its agents are looking into a raw sewage situation stemming from a sinkhole on North Fourth Street in Harrisburg.

A DEP spokesperson said the department is looking into a potential health hazard situation. A source close to the situation explained that when a second sinkhole formed early New Year's Day, the broken water pipe flushed underground soil back through the drainage system.

It was explained that there are "holes" within the city's sewer system that also collected soil, which traveled back to the wastewater treatment plant where it created a backup or a "dry weather" overflow and pushed sewage into the Susquehanna River.

The same thing typically occurs during floods or heavy storms, but during those overflows the river runs higher and faster and carries hazards downstream.

More information was to be made available Friday.

Residents also question why the city did not declare a state of emergency during what they call a "crisis."

Inside the Kingdom Embassy Church on North Fourth Street, volunteers on Thursday packed boxes with food donated by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Items were given to families affected by the sinkhole. While many said they are appreciative of the help, many wished the city would've declared a state of emergency.

Eve Beverly stood on her front porch and watched construction equipment dig around the sinkhole for more than a week. She said she wanted to give Mayor Linda Thompson a message.

"Can ya'll do a better job in this city when ya know ... when we get a crisis like this?" yelled Beverly. "Please? Thank you."

Beverly's was one of 29 homes affected by the sinkhole that formed sometime New Year's Eve. She said she witnessed crews working on the sinkhole, but was never informed by phone or in person.

"They didn't say what they was going to do. They didn't say anything," she said.

Beverly said she did receive a flyer on her door regarding a boil water advisory. She had concerns because a few of her neighbors were gone for the holiday and were unaware of the situation.

A few houses down, Amanda Vogel echoed the same. She said her questions were not answered and listened to abc27 News for updates. Vogel contended that until a town hall meeting Friday evening, residents were not properly informed of the situation.

"After we had that meeting on Friday night, that's when they really started pitching in helping us," Vogel said. "Until then, we didn't get no help at all."

The American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at the Presbyterian Church near Third and Pine streets. As of Friday evening, the Red Cross said they helped more than 30 people find temporary housing.

Some residents remained at home in fear of looting. Last week, residents voiced concerns to abc27 and thus asked police if burglaries had been reported. Police said no burglaries were reported and maintained officers patrolled the area.

After water and sewer was turned back on Tuesday afternoon, some residents said they returned home with water damage. Police also reported two homes were burglarized. Residents reported electronics were missing, among other items.

"What do they do to protect people's homes while they were in motels? People came back to nothing. They got robbed," Beverly said.

City spokesman Robert Philbin updated news outlets with a press release, but Beverly was quick to point out, "that ain't telling us."

City council members Brad Koplinski and Sandra Reid have scheduled a public forum regarding the sinkhole Monday at 5:30 p.m. inside the City Government Center.

abc27 News attempted to request the city's emergency plan regarding situations of disruptive service, but was unsuccessful.

"I wouldn't want to see this happen nowhere else for real if they ain't prepared for this," Beverly said. "They should've been ready."

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