Inflatable Levee a Fix for Floods?

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WEST PITTSTON, Pa. -- There was a proposal in Luzerne County on a new way to protect a community that has been ravaged by flooding.

People packed a borough council meeting in West Pittston Tuesday night, wanting to hear about the possibility of using an inflatable levee.

An example of an inflatable levee sat outside the borough council meeting.

"They've been working all over Europe for many, many years, since 1991," said Adam Wagner, head of Flood Control Barriers, LLC.

Wagner made the pitch to borough council: an inflatable dam that would be more than a mile long, rise to around 8 feet high, and cost around $1 million--significantly less than a permanent levee.

This inflatable levee would fill first with air, then the water from the rising river itself to hold back the flood water.

"I drove the whole of Susquehanna Avenue, the whole length of one and a quarter miles, and this is exactly what we do, and this would be right for that," Wagner said.

There are still ice boulders visible along Susquehanna Avenue from the threat of flooding from ice jamming earlier this year.

West Pittston has a long history of flood problems. The worst happened in 2011 when the Susquehanna River reached record heights, wrecking many homes.

"I was looking at my neighbors and moving vans and everyone evacuating their houses and the looks on their faces, and it was something I couldn't stand anymore. Something has to be done," said Bob Trusavage of West Pittston.

Trusavage, a flood victim himself, helped bring the inflatable levee proposal to West Pittston. He's tried before. The latest flood treat made him push harder.

"This time, I'm not going to stand for it anymore. I'm not going to be laughed out. I'm going to make waves and maybe get something done," Trusavage said.

The council meeting overflowed with people interested in the idea. Some of them skeptical, others hopeful.

The flood fears here never go away.

"I would hope that that would be enough, that it would give us some promise that we would be safe the next time around," said Virginia Cowley of West Pittston.

This was only a presentation before borough council. There are no plans to vote on this right now, but council members said they would be considering their options.

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