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Westmoreland

County buying specialized Hazmat boat with federal money

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, June 5, 2018, 5:45 p.m.

Westmoreland County's public safety department is going off land.

Officials announced Tuesday that the county will use a $78,742 federal grant to buy a specialized motor boat to help clean up hazardous materials spills and patrol for containments that could affect the local water supply.

“This is another vulnerability we have that can now be addressed property,” said Public Safety Director Roland Mertz.

The 21-foot boat will be first of its kind in Westmoreland County and will be outfitted to assist the public safety department's 60-member volunteer hazmat team. It will allow the emergency response team to contain spills, test for radioactive materials and assist in cleanup activities. It will not serve as a water rescue vessel.

Christopher Tantlinger, director of the county's hazmat operations, said the grant through the Department of Homeland Security, will for the first time enable response teams to work on the five rivers that border Westmoreland County as well as local lakes and reservoirs.

“Historically, we have not had a water component for hazmat,” Tantlinger said. “Emergency response was left up to whatever contractor could respond. This will allow the hazmat team to mitigate the response.”

Westmoreland County touches parts of the Youghiogeny, Monongahela, Allegheny, Kiskiminetas and Conemaugh rivers. The boat also could be used on local lakes and at the Beaver Run Reservoir, if needed.

The grant will pay for the boat, along with staff training, equipment and protection for its crew, including life vests, helmets and gloves.

The boat will feature equipment to allow response crews to set up booms in the water to contain spills. It will have monitors to test for radioactive materials and other dangerous contaminants. A landing mechanism will allow the vessel to load and unload from riverbanks without having to dock, Tantlinger said.

Officials hope to have the boat delivered this year with training of staff to be completed throughout the winter.

“We hope to have the boat put in the water by next spring,” Tantlinger said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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