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RED BANK: “RIVER OF EAST BERGEN” MYSTIFIES RESIDENTS

East Bergen Place resident Walter Lau gazes at the “River of East Bergen.” (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE

A never-ending – and growing – stream of water that has flowed down the street 24/7 for several years is baffling residents of East Bergen Place in Red Bank.

A westward view of the gutter flow. (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

On the block of East Bergen between South Street and Branch Avenue, there are a few things you can always count on. 

Like Fred in the white house, still lugging groceries from his car well into his 90’s. Or the fact that Murray, Angel Palumbo’s shy dachshund-Jack Russell terrier mix, will stare at you with his cute puppy eyes when she walks him down the sidewalk, but he’ll never  let you pet him.

And then, there’s the water.

It flows in the gutter as faithfully as a Yellowstone geyser, gurgling westward along the north side of the street twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, through droughts and storms, heat waves and deep freezes. 

“It’s a ton of water,’’ says resident Walter Lau gazing at the stream flowing past his house. “It’s pretty crazy.”

Residents call it the “River of East Bergen.” 

It is fed by the curbside outfalls connected to basement sump pumps of several homes on the north side of the street, including Lau’s. It ends with a cascade into a storm drain at the corner of South Street.

“It’s gotten worse,” Lau said. “It hasn’t stopped in months.”

And everyone on the block has a theory as to where the water is coming from before it seeps into the basements.

Some believe a stream runs underground, buried, perhaps, when the homes were built a century ago.

Some think there’s a spring nearby, perhaps one that gave nearby Spring Street its name.

Others, citing the increase in flow in the past two years, think it must have something to do with major utility and road construction completed in 2019.

“Since they opened the street up it’s gotten worse,’’ said Palumbo, clutching Murray’s leash.

Several neighbors said construction crews working on their houses had hit water when putting in foundations. Water in basements during storms is a problem up and down the block. 

Bergen Place resident Scott Broschart has pored over centuries-old maps for signs of a spring or a stream but found nothing. He wonders if it may be an infrastructure issue, like a broken water or sewer main. 

“Something is not right,” he says. 

A 1994 utilities map Broschart unearthed shows a notable lack of storm pipes on East Bergen and the surrounding blocks compared to other areas of town.

“There’s just a massive swath of land with no stormwater drains,’’ he said

Borough manager Jim Gant said there’s likely a number of factors at work.

The water table in that area is higher than normal compared to the rest of Red Bank, he said.

And while most towns require sump pumps to be connected to a dry well on the property or the storm sewer,  “In this case there is no storm sewer on E. Bergen and we cannot allow connection of the sump pump to the sanitary sewer line,” he said in an email.

“The Borough is monitoring this situation and we have actively engaged in internal dialogue about the impact it is having,” he added.

But could the stream also portend our climate’s new wetter, future? 

Gant said recent higher than normal rain levels are likely a factor.

Monmouth County’s rainfall for the past 12 months is 10 inches above the historical average. Statewide, 2018 was the wettest in history.  Annual totals since then have hovered hovering slightly above average with a drier 2022 the exception. 

That year included a four-month drought watch during which the “River of East Bergen” kept on flowing.

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