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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Portland Shuts Off Water to 17 Homes

Sharon Angle, the ying to the Ron Angle yang, is nothing like her husband. She has absolutely no interest in politics and thinks we're all just a little nutz. I noticed that the first time I met her during a County Council meeting. She brought a stack of fashion magazines and kept complaining to me that she wished Ron would shut up. But Sharon, like her husband, has a strong sense of right and wrong. She recently took on the Portland Water Authority in a losing battle over their decision to require all of their 400 customers to install something called backflow preventers. Seventeen customers who failed to do this lost their water service last week. To get it back, they will have to pay $30 for the shutoff notice, the cost of the backflow preventer and a $90 hook up fee.

Backflow preventers are what keep drinking water from being contaminated by sources in the ground when water pressure suddenly drops. Drinking water has no chance of being contaminated by Mr. Hankey, experts tell me, but low pressure could cause oil or some other heavy metals to leech in through cracks in the pipes. They are also called check valves, and cost from as little as $100 to $395, depending on the plumber you use. Suburban Water does not require them for residential buildings. The PUC does require them for multi-units, businesses and new construction.

Portland is the last place in the Lehigh Valley to need these devices. That's because the water pressure of its gravity-driven pipes is already incredibly high, somewhere around 120 lbs. "It doesn't make any sense at all," notes Bob Cartwright, a Portland resident who was once a member of that Authority himself.  But an engineer, of course, recommended this measure. "It's still the Perrier of the Slate Belt," Cartwright insists.

Sharon owns about seven homes served by the Portland Water Authority. She received a notice that, unless backflow preventers were installed, her water would be shut off. Her tenants received notices, too, telling them they could ignore paying their rent if the water was turned off.

Though these are just single-family homes, not businesses or multi-unit structures, she decided to comply. But her plumber told her she'd have to wait because demand was so high. She went to a meeting to get an extension because the office hours at this small authority are very limited.

That's where she met Father Steve Maco, from the tiny St. Vincent DePaul parish. Father Steve's plumber had some bad news. These check valves are installed by the shut off valve, but his was not where it should be. In fact, it is buried in the middle of the street.

A miracle!

The Authority first tried telling Father Steve that he's have to pay $4,000 to dig up the street. But it is Sharon Angle who pointed out to him that whatever is in the street is the Authority's responsibility. The Authority then asked Father Steve to split the cost, but at Sharon's urging, he hung tough. So the Authority will now spend $4,000 to dig up the street and connect the shut off valve to his church, so he can install a $100-200 check valve. Sharon was upset at the way the Catholic cleric was treated. "They didn't even acknowledge that he's a priest," she told me.

Sharon then made a plea for people on fixed incomes or who may have lost their jobs, but they fell on deaf ears. An authority member who does not even live in Portland told her it would be no hardship if people were to save.

"What if there's kids in one of those homes?" worries Sharon.

Last week, the water was turned off at about 17 homes. This was confirmed by Portland Mayor and Authority Chair Lance Prator last night. He told me he does not know who's been shut off, nor does he seem to much care. "They had two years to do this," he told me. "If you don't pay your electric bill for two years, won't they turn it off?"

That's true, but PPL and Met Ed don't force people to hire electricians to attach relays to the meter.

Portland, incidentally, is home to some of the highest sewer bills in the country. It was $100 per month at one point, and still hovers around $75 per month.

They must shit a lot.

Incidentally, because of a water main break on Friday, most of Portland is under a boil advisory "until further notice."


Anonymous said...

"But Sharon, like her husband, has a strong sense of right and wrong."

Well she must have real sense of what's right because old Ronnie has a great sense of what is wrong.

The Truth Miester!

Anonymous said...

Seems as thou not only are the residents meth heads, must be the Portland Water Authority are drinking the bong water too!

Anonymous said...

Ah, life in the sticks. I thought this was *Lehigh Valley* Ramblings?

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked, Portland was in Northampton County and Northampton County was part of the Lehigh Valley.

Anonymous said...

If you want to define it by remote borders. Lehigh Valley is basically the ABE area and immediate suburbs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Portland and the Slate Belt is definitely a part of the Lehigh Valley, which includes Lehigh Northampton and, by some definitions, Warren County.

Anonymous said...

"Lehigh Valley is basically the ABE area and immediate suburbs."

That's what John Callahan and his exec campaign thought, too.

Anonymous said...

At first I thought poorly of the Authority but then I read your entire entry.

1. This is about the
Angles being inconvenienced by no rent being paid, not compassion.

2. Especially when you realize they had TWO years to do the repairs and did nothing.

So another shameless attempt by you to make saints out the regions sinners.

Sorry Bernie but he will never be elected again. You would have an easier time trying to rehabilitate Glenn Reibman.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is abiout the water being shut off to 17 homes and a Catholic Church nearly being forced to spend $4,000 it does not owe and is unable to afford. You are blinded by hatred of the Angles and would rather see people go without water than acknowledge that simple fact.

Anonymous said...

@3:09 Ah yes, this is about "sinners" like the Catholic Church. I am not sure I read the same article. This isn't about re-electing Angle; his wife plays a valid role in the story, but all you saw was the last name.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she could have paid for the less fortunate

Anonymous said...

Since she was so worried and all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You don't know Sharon you just hate her husband. If she knew who some of these people were and was told what circumstances made it impossible for them to pay, she may very well have done exactly that. She's a very good-natured and goodhearted person who does not stoop to posting anonymous personal attacks the way you do.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that backflow preventers are necessary and the Borough is doing the right thing by requiring them. If they did give them 2 years and they were not installed, then shutting off the water is a reasonable method to compel them to install them


Bernie O'Hare said...

John M, You're a fairly sensible guy and I generally agree with you, but not this time. The fact that these are required by the Borough does not logically translate to meaning they are necessary. in fact, the evidence out there indicates they are a waste of money. I say this because Portland has very high water pressure, making the possibility of backflow remote, even when pressure os reduced. i also point to other areas like Easton that do not require them except for new construction, multi-units or business. Finally, let me add that 17 homes translates to 4.25% of the Authority's customers. This is wrong.

Anonymous said...

This is abiout the water being shut off to 17 homes and a Catholic Church nearly being forced to spend $4,000 it does not owe and is unable to afford. You are blinded by hatred of the Angles and would rather see people go without water than acknowledge that simple fact.

Let's all shed a tear for the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Rob Hamill said...

This Authority should take lessons from LCA about abuse of power, arbitrary decisions made by faceless engineer bureaucraps, and expansion of the bureaucracy no matter how many people it hurts.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor must be a REAL LOSER that would think seeing 17 people having their water shut off is just okay.... how heartless....

Instead of the "Mayor of the Year: this year he should receive the "Heartless Loser of the Year!

A friend of mine the lives in Portland told me about this and the struggle the Mayor went thru when breaking his leg..... Guess that big fat cash settlement erased his memory when he got that check....

he Mr. Mayor... don't boo hoo to anyone how poor you are about losing your job... Perhaps its KARMA?