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Homeowner between a rock and a wet place

August 26, 2012
By JOHN BORGOLINI , The Leader Herald

EDINBURG - While Tropical Storm Irene was causing currents to tear down trees and flood buildings along the Mohawk River last year, it also prompted an evacuation of South Shore Road after water from the Batchellerville Creek shot through one resident's house "like a geyser."

And Brett Vandervolgen is still terrified.

"I walked up into the woods, and I saw the whole bank has eroded," Vandervolgen said. "It is leaking and coming into my property. It has stopped traffic, and two times we have been evacuated.

Article Photos

Brett Vandervolgen’s home in Edinburg is shown above. He has had to restructure his driveway several times because of flooding from the Batchellerville Creek, which runs behind his house and is prone to overflowing its banks in heavy rain. (The Leader-Herald/John Borgolini)

"The creek itself is trying to change course and come down. I'm scared to death that if we get rain, this thing can break through and destroy property."

Vandervolgen, who lives at 890 South Shore Road, has been unable to get officials to do anything about the eroding banks because they are on the property of a neighbor, Doug Pikul of 15 Degaulia Road.

Pikul told Vandervolgen he could do any work he thought was necessary. However, Vandervolgen is disabled and says he is forced to seek help from town, state and federal officials.

"I have told Brett for the last three years there is nothing the town can do, because it's private property," Town Supervisor Jean Raymond said. "I have put him in touch with everybody I can think of, including [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]. We're just not legally allowed to take public equipment onto private property."

Vandervolgen, who used to work as a crash fire and rescue crew member at Albany International Airport and an emergency medical technician, says he expects more help from the government.

He is recovering from multiple back surgeries and continues to battle lifelong kidney problems, he says, all the while fearing that at any time his house could be washed away in a river of debris.

"That thing can be a raging torrent. I don't know what to do. I've called everyone I can call," Vandervolgen said. "I've asked somebody [from the Saratoga County Highway Department] to come look at it and see if they can do anything about it. They said they can't do anything about it unless it takes the road off, and if it takes the road off, it will kill a lot of people."

He said after four floodings and two evacuations, all the local officials have to do is say it's affecting the community and apply for a grant.

"If that thing reroutes itself like it's trying to do, it could take three houses with it," he said.

Two fishery biologists from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently visited the site, and agency spokesman David Winchell said a news release this week the department is working with other agencies to alleviate the problems.

Winchell said DEC cannot do the work itself, as it is the permitting agency, but the biologists found debris can be removed from a channel and there is "other work that can be done that may help."

John Borgolini can be reached by email at



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