Bucks, Hunterdon declared disaster areas

Counties, governments, individuals and businesses now can apply for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

By: Linda Seida
   Damages incurred by the City of Lambertville during the Delaware River flood could total as much as $931,500 with much of it stemming from damage to the sewage treatment plant, according to Mayor David Del Vecchio.
   New Hope is reporting $40,100 in flood-related expenses over the 72-hour period from June 29 to July 1, according to Assistant Borough Manager Janell Hammond. The cost includes Dumpsters for debris removal and overtime for police and Public Works employees, according to Mayor Laurence Keller.
   Stockton has no estimate yet of the borough’s flood-related expenses, according to Mayor Gregg Rackin on Friday.
   None of the three towns could estimate the damages incurred by private property owners or individuals.
   "It’s probably a little premature yet," Mayor Keller said Monday.
   According to the Bucks County Office of Emergency Management, 238 single-family homes in the county suffered major damage during the flood. Another 284 had minor damage.
   It also estimated 47 businesses with major damage and another 65 with minor damage.
   "The highest numbers by far were seen in the New Hope business district, which borders the river," according to a statement from the Bucks County Office of Emergency Management.
   One hundred and thirty-three apartments suffered damage with 102 of those affected in New Hope.
   Three bridges spanning minor creeks and tributaries sustained major damage. One of those is in New Hope. The other two are in Durham Township.
   In Hunterdon County, the totals were 375 homes and 1,000 people affected by the flood, according to William Powell, the county’s coordinator of emergency management.
   With President Geoge Bush’s declaration Friday of a major disaster in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the municipalities will be eligible for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Eligible counties in New Jersey include Hunterdon, Mercer, Sussex and Warren.
   In Pennsylvania, at least 21 counties, including Bucks, have been declared federal disaster areas.
   The disaster declaration also makes it possible for businesses and individuals, including renters, to apply to FEMA for aid.
   Aid can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other flood-related expenses. Also available are low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to cover losses incurred by residents and business, but not covered fully by insurance.
   This type of aid is available to Hunterdon and Bucks County individuals and businesses.
   Damage to the Lambertville Sewerage Authority plant could be as much as $803,000, the facility’s executive director estimated.
   The removal of flood debris cost the city $10,500. More than $20,000 is needed to restore the Justice Center.
   It’s estimated the city also spent $48,000 on "protective measures." These include the Fire Department’s work pumping basements and efforts put in by the Public Works Department and the Police Department to ready the city for the coming flood and after, getting the city back to normal, according to city Clerk Lori Buckelew.
   Jim Meehan, executive director of the authority, said the estimate of $803,000 would stem from a "worst case scenario." There’s a chance the facility could end up not needing to replace eight rotating biological contactors, known as RBCs.
   The RBCs endured a "rough time" in the floods of April 2005 and September 2004, Mr. Meehan said. After the floods, it took several months to get them back to full working order.
   After going through the third flood in 21 months, the results of an early sampling last week indicate the RBCs may be OK this time, Mr. Meehan said, although it’s too early to say for sure. Several more weeks may be needed before the authority knows the extent of the damage.
   An RBC is composed of a steel shaft. Partially submerged, it turns slowly in the wastewater. A plastic disc, 10 feet in diameter and constructed like a honeycomb, is attached to the steel shaft. The material on the disc "cultivates organisms to maintain the biomass," Mr. Meehan said. Floodwaters can clog it with silt, sand and numerous pollutants.
   The authority has flood insurance, but it only covers the building, not the equipment, Mr. Meehan said.
   Flood victims can begin the process of applying to FEMA for aid.
   The first step is to make note of this federal disaster number: FEMA-1653-DR in New Jersey and FEMA-1649-DR in Pennsylvania. Applicants will be asked to provide this number.
   There are two ways residents can register for assistance.
   They may register by phone by calling (800) 621-FEMA (3362). Residents with speech or hearing disabilities should call TTY (800) 462-7585.
   Registration also may be made online at www.fema.gov/assistance/index.shtm.
   Be prepared to answer questions concerning income, insurance and the kind of damage incurred.
   The agency will provide an application number, which is considered a reference number. Make note of that number because it will be needed frequently.
   After an application is submitted, an inspector from FEMA will contact that person and schedule a visit to the property.
   FEMA will mail a loan application in a packet from the Small Business Administration. Whether people intend to seek a loan, they should complete the application because it will qualify them for other services. However, completing the application will not obligate them to accept a loan.
   In a letter to residents, Mayor Del Vecchio said, "Once walk-in registration sites have been identified we will notify you of the locations. If you have any questions, please call City Hall at 397-0110."