Northgate Residents Say They Want Solution for Stagnant, Potentially Infectious Water
Family tells THP and township water is to blame for their son's Kawasaki disease
An Upper Hanover family whose son recently contracted Kawasaki disease is petitioning developer T.H. Properties and Upper Hanover Township to do something about a large body of stagnant water in Northgate which they believe caused their son's illness.
Tom and April Baker, of Morgan Hill Drive, started an online petition this week prompted by their son, James, who recently became infected with Kawasaki disease. The couple maintains the 10-year-old got the disease from a sediment basin filled with standing water behind their home. As of Tuesday afternoon, that petition on change.org has garnered more than 150 signatures.
There is no known cause for Kawasaki, but Baker said her son's doctor cited a study by Boston Children's Hospital has made a correlation between children who contracted the disease and also live near a body of standing water.
April Baker said her son started with a burning sensation in his hands and feet earlier this month that evolved into a full-body rash, inflammation and high fever. He was eventually diagnosed with the rare immune disease with no cure. He spent three days at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest this past weekend on IV and aspirin therapy.
While he was discharged on Sunday, Baker says her son still has an inflamed liver, fever and a skin condition of his hands and feet. He will be out of school for at least the first week because of the risk of outside infection and has to follow up with a cardiologist in a few weeks.
Kawasaki disease, a non-contagious childhood illness, causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It can harm the coronary arteries long-term and, if not caught early, can cause a fatal aneurysm or even heart attack.
Baker said while her son will hopefully recover in full, her family wants T.H. Properties and Upper Hanover officials to do something about the standing water that has been at the location for seven years.
"This needs to be taken care of," she said. "Unfortunately, our son had to get sick. This is not just a risk; this can cause a child to have a heart attack. I don't want to see other people go through this."
Stan Seitzinger, Upper Hanover Township manager, said although the township doesn't own the land or the basin, they have been and will continue to work with residents and T.H. Properties to see if there is anything that can be done to address concerns at the site.
He said before the petition there was one resident complaint, in May, and that the township asked T.H. Properties to do work on the basin, which they completed. Seitzinger said the developer cleaned out sediment to maintain a free-flowing drain on the basin and also replaced rock around a "riser" pipe to improve water conditions in June.
Seitzinger noted, however, that T.H. Properties is required by law to maintain that sediment basin, and a second basin in the development, according to their construction plan for the site, which is regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Montgomery County Conservation District.
The basins were mandated to control water runoff and deter flooding. They are temporary structures, Seitzinger said, and once construction is complete, will be transitioned into shallow pools of water no more than 2 feet deep. He said in the post-construction phase they would likely not hold water continuously.
Seitzinger said the township's engineer and a representative from T.H. Properties went as far as meeting with Conservation District officials to ask that the basin be converted before construction was complete because it has been in existence for so long due to the developer's bankruptcy and subsequent reorganization. That request was denied, he said.
"The township has tried to make it as functional and good for the residents as it can be…We worked with THP and they did go up there and conduct maintenance. We reported back to the resident that we inspected it and that the basin was operating according to design.
"Barring a change in the Conservation District, THP is going to have to make it as functional as it can according to its permits. The township doesn't have the authority to overrule the DEP and the Conservation District and certainly THP doesn't either."
April Baker she would still like to see something done at the location.
"THP has been going back and forth saying this is necessary," she said. "My issue is that it can't be a stagnant pool of water. I'm not allowed to have a stagnant pool in my backyard. It needs to be aerated or have a fountain. It's disgusting. It's full of mosquitos."
When contacted by the Town and Country, T.H. Properties representative Chad Gehman said the company is aware of the petition and is evaluating all the options for the site with the appropriate authorities.
Work was being performed at the site Tuesday, residents said.
"We began working immediately to address the concern and will continue working until the concern has been addressed," Gehman said Tuesday. "THP is working diligently with the Northgate Homeowners Association as well as the township to address [it] as quickly as possible."
Gehman said with houses both sold and settled, the community is more than halfway complete. He said they anticipate construction will continue beyond 2015.