Pumping Up: PA Town’s Disused Flood Pumps May Cause New Flood Maps

February 24, 2017

It’s common knowledge that flood insurance is required if you live within certain zones specified by FEMA’s flood maps, but what if technology (or the lack thereof) causes the maps to change?

That could happen in Bethlehem, PA because of 15 flood control pumps along the Lehigh River, where fifteen flood-control pumps are in sore need of repair.

Federal officials say failure to fix the pumps could cost property owners a lot of money, especially those who live along the riverfront and do not currently have flood insurance, while representatives of the city of Bethlehem argue that the pumps have never been used, and that repairs would cost millions of dollars, which they believe to be an unnecessary expense.

The pumps are part of a storm protection system that also includes a 28-foot levee and deep storm sewers, all of which were designed in the early 1960’s when the Bethlehem Steel plant along the river was still active.

When the plant ceased operations in 1995, care and maintenance of the pumps passed into the hands of the city, but when a high voltage line to the pumps died five years later in 2000, the pumps died also.

FEMA says if the pumps are not repaired, the flood map may be redrawn, and flood insurance required for property owners who currently are not in flood zones.