Last settlement reached in 2004 Burlco dam breaches

Beach Drive in Medford Lakes was devastated after Lower Aetna Lake and Upper Aetna Lake overflowed.
Beach Drive in Medford Lakes was devastated after Lower Aetna Lake and Upper Aetna Lake overflowed. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / File Photograph)
Posted: June 14, 2013

Nine years after torrential rains burst 17 dams in Burlington County's lake region and flooded more than 200 homes, a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the residents is drawing to a close.

This week the homeowners reached a tentative $2.5 million settlement with KSA Inc., a now-defunct Medford engineering firm that had been retained to inspect and repair four of the dams, according to Ed Petkevis, a Roebling lawyer who participated in the class-action litigation.

The lawsuit alleged negligence by the engineers, the dam owners, and the Townships of Medford, Evesham, and Tabernacle and Medford Lakes Borough, where the failed dams were concentrated.

Over the last six years, settlements totaling $9.2 million were reached with all of the defendants except for KSA.

The latest agreement was facilitated by Superior Court Judge Marc Baldwin, who stepped in as the case neared an August trial date, Petkevis said.

The amount was the highest paid by all of the parties and matched what Medford Township paid in 2007.

The latest settlement is subject to a judge's approval in July. Dante Rohr and John Slimm, Cherry Hill lawyers who represent KSA, did not respond to calls and e-mails for comment.

Under the terms of the settlement, the company is not admitting liability, while the owners, Kevin Kammerer and John Schweppenheiser Jr. and his son, who were sued individually, will be dismissed from the case.

"It took a lot of time but we're very pleased there's additional money to compensate these people for the terrible losses they sustained. . . . Some of the homes were knocked off their foundation, and were condemned and needed to be torn down," Petkevis said.

Before the storm, the Girl Scouts of Camden County had hired KSA to inspect its dams at Camp Inawendiwin in Tabernacle and make repairs, Petkevis said.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had found deficiencies and classified the dams as Class II, which means experts expected them to cause substantial property damage if breached.

YMCA Camp Ockanickon also retained KSA to take care of its dams in Medford.

The YMCA settled for $2.1 million while the Girl Scouts settled for $425,000.

The lawsuit sought unspecified compensation for damaged property, loss of property use, and any drop in property value. Petkevis said a portion of the settlement money also had to be paid to partially reimburse the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its payment of claims.

Nearly 800 people had to evacuate their homes after the dams burst July 12 and 13, 2004, causing more than $50 million in damage to homes and infrastructure in Burlington County.


Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog, "Burlco Buzz," at www.philly.com/BurlcoBuzz.

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