Cost of Irene's punch still uncertain

Bethlehem assessing scope of tropical storm's damage

— Tropical Storm Irene wrought destruction all over the state, and while many places are certainly worse off, the Town of Bethlehem wasn't spared from the storm's fury.

Town officials said it will be some time before a price tag can even be put on the damage, which has affected large swaths of municipal infrastructure. In the days following the storm, town workers and engineers have been trying to get a handle on things, said Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Works Erik Deyoe.

“Some of the facilities can't really even be seen at this point because of the water level, particularly some of the sewer facilities,” he said.

What's clear is the town's water facilities in New Scotland have taken a brutal hit. Water flowed over an emergency spillway at the Vly Creek Reservoir, eroding the surrounding lands. On the Onesquethaw Creek, a similar set of circumstances on a diversion dam has made it so that runoff actually bypasses the dam through newly formed paths. Roads to this area were also washed out, compounding the difficulty of making repairs.

The town's wastewater treatment plant became clogged with debris at the height of the storm, causing a manhole cover on the inflow to the plant to blow off when the system backed up. The plant is back in operation now, though repairs will likely have to be made to the sewer system once the water level goes down.

In South Bethlehem, an old railroad bridge on state land near the landfill will likely have to be removed after a raging river damaged its abutment.

As is the case across the state, a lot of the town's infrastructure damage was caused by water, not winds.

“We were at historically high [rainfall] levels to begin with, then we just threw a hurricane on top of it,” Deyoe said.

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