WETHERSFIELD - Wethersfield resident George Ruhe’s days as a professional engineer might be behind him, but the Cloverdale Pond-turned swamp that sits next to his Cloverdale Circle property has been keeping him busy these days.
The former mechanical and industrial engineer points to erosion that he suspects to be a hazard to a gas line, flooding of a stream that runs between his and a neighbor’s yard and the deterioration of a small dam structure, known as a weir, amongst a slew of other perceived problems with the area.
“The entire system, from where the stream enters the pond on the south side of Cloverdale until it leaves the area going under Fox Hill Road, is an engineering disaster,” Ruhe wrote in an email he sent to Mayor Donna Hemmann, Town Manager Jeff Bridges and members of the Town Council, as well as The Rare Reminder. “The area can and has been subjected to significant flooding that has over run Cloverdale Circle, and more regularly has over run Fox Hill Road. Additionally, the area is severely blighted, presenting public health and public safety hazards that include dangerous trees.”
If you have to see it to believe it, Ruhe is more than willing to give tours. Mine started where the gradient of his backyard slopes up toward his house, which overlooks the stream. Ruhe points across his yard to where the adjoining property meets Fox Hill Road.
“In really heavy rains, it has been known to go over the street,” Ruhe said. “That can be a hazard to children if they’re playing. We could have a fairly heavy rain for a good amount of time, and it flows away, but when we have really heavy rain for a short time--maybe a half an hour--and that all will be inundated.”
A catalyst for the flooding is the fact that the outflow exit is comparatively smaller than where water comes in to the channel, Ruhe said. He took me past the front of his house and across Cloverdale Circle to a large pipe entrance that Ruhe personally crawled inside in order to measure the circumference using only a “noodle” floatation device and chalk.
“This is where the water comes in,” Ruhe says. “The size of that opening is significantly bigger than the discharge opening.”
But there’s more. Back in the backyard, Ruhe leads me down the slope and toward the stream where a yellow pole marking a gas line sits at the edge.
“That gas line’s been there for over 50 years,” he says. “What shape it’s in, I don’t know.”
The shape of the surface covering, however, is slowly deteriorating, Ruhe says. He points to erosion that has thinned the banks of the stream over time. His concerns are twofold--could the thinning surface above the gas line leave it exposed, and, what impact will the trees growing around it have?
“The brook and trees really impinge on the gas line,” Ruhe says.
But that’s not all that might be compromised, he says. Next, Ruhe leads me over the stream and to a manhole cover on the other side. The sewage line runs under both the creek and the gas line.
“Granted, it’s being held to a degree by growth and whatever, but through erosion this can become exposed,” Ruhe says, pointing to the ground surrounding the manhole.
Although Ruhe admits that he’s not sure if or how the sewage line could be impacted, he suspects that further erosion could lead to interaction between it and the creek.
“These are things you have to think about, hopefully before some problems arise,” he says.
Town Engineer Mike Turner seemed concerned mainly with the issue of fallen trees near the former pond.
“The only hazards I am aware of are tree limbs on the north and west side of the pond that our Physical Services maintenance staff can’t get access to with our trucks because the ground is too wet,” Turner said in an email. “I believe Sally Katz and Phil Smitwick, our tree warden, have recently reviewed and may have even done some hand trimming as best they could.”
The town is waiting for word from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection regarding reconstruction of the pond dam and the pond dredging, Turner said.