LIVINGSTON, NJ – After receiving complaints from residents that the Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC) Community Field is causing major flooding and icing in the area, the Livingston Township Council hosted a meeting on Thursday to address this issue.
The project’s civil engineer, Kevin Haney, president & chief operational officer (COO) of Maser Consulting, was on hand to explain why any additional flooding is not a result of the field. He said that this multipurpose field has met and exceeded all the federal, state and township requirements that state that, in all ways, the new turf field must bring about environmental conditions that are better than the pre-development conditions.
Haney also said that area residents might perceive a difference because prior to the field being built, the water went through wooded property. He said that the water travels differently across an area with a lawn and/or gravel, and it is now more visible as it travels in an easterly direction.
He further explained that the field is like a big bathtub that collects the water. According to Haney, the water is stored, and then goes through a series of collection pipes that discharges it at a rate slow enough to not cause flooding.
He said the slowness of the water discharge rate again causes people to perceive that the field is bringing about more flooding when in fact it is not.
“Two hours after the storm, it may be sunny out, but the bathtub of water filling the ball field is still coming out,” said Haney. “People see water coming out a lot longer. This was done because you don’t want a heavy flow at one time.”
Haney agreed with the assessment of residents who spoke that the water would come out quicker if the woods were still there.
“It’s also an emotional thing for people who once saw woods there,” said Haney. “Now they see standing water on a ball field.”
According to Haney, his engineering company did four times better than what was required to reduce the water runoff in the area. He said that there is a 65 percent to 75 percent reduction in runoff for major storms as compared to pre-development of the field.
Even with all of Haney’s assurances, Bennington Road residents were not convinced. Michele Baird was among those who said that her perception is that there is much more water in her yard since the field was built.
“The amount of water is staggering,” she said. “I have a statue of the blessed mother in my backyard. I now call her the Lady of the Lake.”
As much as he sympathized with Baird, Haney insisted that the field was not to blame. He said that the ground was frozen solid in January, which creates more flooding. Haney added that the dead trees and leaves in the area might also add to the flooding problem.
Resident Dennis Duffy said that there is now so much water in the area that the nearby baseball field is not usable.
“The outfield is so soaked on the Little League field that the lawn mower is leaving ruts in the field,” said Duffy, who added that it had not been that soaked in the years prior to SBMC Community Field being built. “We had Nor’easters in prior years, but the Little League field was still used after that.”
Both Duffy and Baird pointed out that more water is also going covering a major walking path in the area, which could cause a dangerous icing situation for walkers and runners.
Haney agreed that the slower discharge of the water means it is going over the paths for a longer period, and this can cause additional icing.
Even with this problem, Haney said that the field is still not to blame. He said the neighboring properties would flood just as much even if the township wanted to spend the money to hard-pipe the field. Haney said it would be a waste of the township’s taxes.
After hearing from both the engineer and the residents, Mayor Ed Meinhardt said that overall the new turf field has received accolades from the many people who have used it this past year.
“The field has been a boon for the town,” said Councilman Michael Silverman, who added that he hopes the flooding issues can be resolved over time.
Duffy provided the above photos of recent flooding near the properties on Bennington Road and toward Aquinas Academy.