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Bucks Cty. community is learning the tao and the Dow of levees

4/13/2014 | Real Estate Blog

Maple Beach is a small community in Bucks County, a part of Bristol Township nestled against the Delaware River. One resident says his neighborhood is “heaven.” It is safe to say that his neighbors feel the same way. That is why they are determined to save their houses — all four of them.

Maple Beach is not just small; it is tiny. The four houses are all that remains of a more densely populated part of the township, but their owners are used to being alone. The other homes were torn down years ago to accommodate chemical company Rohm & Haas’ facility in Bristol Township. The plant is still there, but the logo has changed: Dow Chemical Co. bought Rohm & Haas in 2008.

In a rare twist on stories involving endangered neighborhoods, the chemical plant is not the problem. Maple Beach residents are not complaining about runoff, clouds of toxic gas or other environmental problems. They are taking issue with Dow’s decision not to maintain federal certification of a levee it owns. The levee sits between Maple Beach and the river — it is, the residents say, all that stands between them and devastating floodwaters.

Certification is not cheap, it seems. A 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service stated that both private and public levee owners find meeting federal standards cost-prohibitive. To obtain and to maintain certification, the owner must prove that the levee can withstand a major flood. That requires data collection and, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a fairly rigorous inspection by a registered engineer or a federal agency that oversees levee design.

So, Dow, in its efforts to cut costs, has chosen not to certify the Maple Beach levee. The company says that certification is voluntary and letting it lapse does not impede the effectiveness of the levee itself.

The residents disagree. We’ll explain more in our next post.

Source:, “Bucks County levee issue causes concern,” Ben Finley (The Inquirer), April 7, 2014