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Hazard averted when gasoline from flooded Jefferson Hills plant leaks into creek

| Thursday, July 11, 2013, 4:26 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
A swiftwater team heads into the overflown Peters Creek on Wednesday to place spill containment booms as a precautionary measure should materials leak from the Clark Testing facility.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Clark Testing staff members make their way across the parking lot to an EMS staging area for a quick check of their vital statistics before being sent home after flood waters entered their Jefferson Hills faclity on Wednesday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Even after flood waters receded, lower levels of the Clark Testing facility in Jefferson Hills were filled with water from the overflown Peters Creek.

Emergency crews averted a potential hazard when Wednesday's flash flooding infiltrated a Jefferson Hills testing facility.

A hazardous materials crew and swiftwater team placed oil-absorbent booms in Peters Creek, where rising waters breached its banks and rushed into the Clark Testing building along Route 51.

It was one of numerous problems in Jefferson Hills that caused Mayor Michael Green to declare a state of emergency.

By late morning, several roads, homes and businesses had been flooded. By mid-afternoon it was reported that 700 West Penn Power customers had lost service.

“We have a full crew of public works staff and police staff working,” borough spokeswoman Jane Milner said. “The police chief (Gene Roach) is urging residents to travel on local roads only if absolutely necessary.”

Shortly before 3 p.m., Allegheny County officials said an undetermined number of 55-gallon drums of jet fuel and gasoline were floating toward the Monongahela River.

Those on the scene were saying it was not drums floating out, but substances that had leaked out of them and into Peters Creek.

Clark staff members, who asked not to be identified, said the facility's lower levels were filled with water when the creek overflowed into the parking lot as far as the main entrance.

According to an online profile, Clark has provided qualification testing and design verification for manufacturers for more than 50 years. It offers a comprehensive catalog of testing services, with some potentially hazardous materials on site.

Brian Chalfant, a firefighter with Jefferson Hills Fire Rescue, said several barrels containing a potentially hazardous substance toppled in the water and leaked.

“There is no immediate danger to the public or the environment, because everything is contained to the building at this time,” Chalfant said shortly after 3 p.m. “There is potential for exposure.”

Chalfant described the water inside the Clark facility as coated with a “sleek” substance.

He said the booms placed in the creek would absorb any of that substance before it made its way to the nearby Mon.

Peters Creek is a tributary of the Mon, flowing roughly three miles from the Clark facility before it reaches the river.

Weather-related problems forced the borough library to close at 4 p.m.

Events on Wednesday night were postponed, including a borough recreation program movie night.

Allegheny County officials said a dinner time storm caused a tree to fall into a utility pole along Bedell Road, not far from the Washington County line.

Falling trees brought down wires along Scotia Hollow Road near Route 51.

Another tree and accompanying debris blocked traffic at the juncture of Chamberlain and Gill Hall roads.

Patrick Cloonan and Jennifer R. Vertullo are staff writers for Trib Total Media. They can be reached at 412-664-9161, Cloonan at ext. 1967 or pcloonan@tribweb.com, Vertullo at ext. 1956 or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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