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Chester County Press

Flooding discussed at Avondale Borough Council meeting

03/14/2022 08:26PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Community and nonprofit advocates who formed the Avondale Apartments Advocacy Group reported their progress to the Avondale Borough Council on Feb. 16. The progress report was received very positively.

The group, led by Carrie Freeman from United Way of Southern Chester County, Jim Mercante, and Leah Reynolds from Kennett Area Community Service (KACS), is committed to improving the human impact of the repetitive flooding at the Avondale Apartments in Avondale.  Intense flooding there over a 20-year span has repeatedly necessitated the removal of families living in the bottom floor of the apartment building, sometimes by boat.  Luckily there have been no fatalities during these storm emergencies to date.

"Courageous participation leads to positive results,” said Reynolds. “The Avondale Apartments Advocacy group is happy to work with this Borough Council and Mayor, along with the other organizations and compassionate citizens concerned about the repetitive, extreme flooding in Avondale. Clearly, this is a community that wants to take care of its citizens.”

KACS is a lead nonprofit caring for the displaced residents during each flooding event.

An apartment site visit was held on Nov. 19, 2021, and attended by concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, the owner of the Avondale Apartments, ex-Avondale Borough Council President Bill Shore, and three stream experts—Dr. Melinda Daniels, a research scientist at Stroud Water Research Center, and Seung Ah Byun and Cory Trego from the Chester County Water Resources Authority.  

The main problem is that the Avondale Apartments sit in a floodway and on a floodplain.  Storm waters flow south in the East Branch of the White Clay Creek through Loch Nairn, across Route 1, and end up in the bowl that is Avondale Borough.  This flooding affects not only the Avondale Apartments, but also housing located in the vicinity.  Flooding also prevents the borough from developing the adjacent parkland for resident use for recreation activities.

When flooding occurs, approximately 250 residents need to be housed in temporary shelters until they are allowed to return to their homes.  Currently, southern Chester County social service organizations like KACS, The Garage and others, accommodate these displaced individuals until the apartments are deemed livable again.  For some families on the first floor, this means four months in a hotel.

Daniels explained that the two main causes of this flooding are stormwater runoff due to increased development in other municipalities over the decades, increased impervious paving, Route 1 runoff, etc., that contribute to stormwater runoff that flows "downhill" to Avondale Borough and climate intensification.  The storms and hurricanes now are much more severe than the prior 20 to 30 years and are coming with twice the frequency of flooding. The “once in a generation" flooding now occurs more routinely.  Even only 2- or 3-inch rainfall in a short time period can cause flooding.

There is nothing feasible to address the flooding situation in Avondale itself; the creek cannot be diverted, flood barrier bridges will not work, and you can’t jack up the apartments above the floodwaters.  Debris and silt removal in the stream also isn’t a solution.

At this time, there is a viable option to better control stormwater in the area—mitigate the flooding by working upstream. The recent acquisition of Loch Nairn golf course by New Garden Township is a positive development. They are willing partners in flood mitigation and will hopefully develop Loch Nairn into a gigantic stormwater mitigation feature, much like the Longwood Meadows, which is a containment “wetland”.  Land design like that could provide significant stormwater management capabilities that would address flooding events and consequences in Avondale.  

The next step for the Advocacy group is to help the borough create a specific emergency plan to use in a flood emergency as it relates to where to shelter displaced victims and who to contact in an emergency phone chain.  Temporary shelters need to be identified.  Any volunteers who wish to help work on such an emergency plan should contact Carrie Freeman, CEO of the United Way of Southern Chester County, at [email protected]