DOYLESTOWN — Erin Homa and Mike Gibson plan to host their wedding guests Saturday in the front yard of their home on Clinton Road.
The couple had wanted to hold the reception in a newly landscaped backyard, so they graded dirt, planted grass and built a French drain with gravel and decorative rocks.
Their plans changed during a heavy rainstorm in late May, when a torrent of muddy water flowed off a hill where workers were building the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline, flooded the backyard and washed away the couple's hard work.
"There was just this huge wave, this huge, brown wave of water," Homa said.
She has exchanged emails with a pipeline representative, but so far NEXUS hasn’t committed to fixing the damage, she said. Now, Homa is working with Jackson Township attorney Michael Thompson and Central Land Consulting, a company that represents numerous landowners along the pipeline route.
— In the ground —
The $2.1 billion NEXUS pipeline starts near Hanoverton in Columbiana County and will connect to existing natural gas pipelines in Michigan. Detroit-based DTE Energy and Enbridge, a Canadian company, are partners in the 255-mile project.
When completed, the 36-inch diameter pipeline will carry up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Utica and Marcellus shales to users in Ohio, Michigan and Canada.
The section of pipeline that crosses Clinton Road in the northeast corner of Wayne County is buried in the ground already.
After covering the pipeline, NEXUS built an earthen berm, or water break, across the pipeline right-of-way, said Austin Carani, construction manager with Central Land Consulting.
The berm diverts runoff so it won’t erode the soil covering the pipeline. The problem with the berm near Clinton Road is it shunts water into neighboring yards, Carani said.
— Worse than usual—
Everyone knows water flows downhill, and when it rains, a temporary stream courses through the yards of Homa and her neighbors. It’s why she put a French drain in her backyard, which is about 450 feet from the pipeline right-of-way.
But Homa’s next-door neighbor, Paul Nitz, who has lived in his house since 1979, said he’d never seen anything like May’s flood of mud.
A video he recorded on his phone shows the normally clear runoff turn into a brown stream that swamped his outdoor patio with water several inches deep. A little water leaked inside a basement window.
"If that window would have broke, my basement would have flooded," Nitz said.
The water left half an inch of mud on the patio, he said, and washed away two 40-pound sacks of mulch.
"It looked like bodies," Homa said, recalling how the mulch bags washed into her yard.
A landscaper told her it would cost more than $30,000 to fix the severely eroded lawn, a quote she sent to a NEXUS representative. NEXUS has not yet agreed to terms for fixing the damaged yard.
Central Land Consulting filed a complaint dated June 8 on Homa’s behalf with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week.
NEXUS spokesman Adam Parker responded to The Canton Repository’s questions about the Clinton Road drainage issues and landowner compensation with an email.
Since the June date of Homa’s complaint, NEXUS and its regulators have looked at the area and found no ongoing compliance issues, Parker wrote. However, the company did not deny having a role in the problem.
"During the evaluation, NEXUS observed non-project related ground disturbance in the area that may have contributed to the water runoff issues in the area," Parker wrote. "The pipe near the landowner's property has been installed, the area has been reseeded and is in the process of being restored to pre-construction conditions."
Thompson, the attorney, said Homa and her neighbors didn’t get money from the pipeline because it didn’t cross their properties, but they’re still feeling the impact.
NEXUS needs to pay for the damage and fix the problem that caused the flooding, he said, "or it's going to happen again, and again, and again."