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Smithton residents get some answers

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The regular meeting of Smithton Council scheduled for April 8 was cancelled because there was not a quorum present. Only council members Carl Cathers, Fred Foster and Dan Barthels were in attendance.

Also present were several Smithton residents and Robert McKowen, the new owner of the property formerly home to the Jones Brewery.

Not wanting to waste the opportunity to hear from McKowen, Barthels introduced him to those in attendance and initiated an informal question and answer session, allowing the citizens to ask directly about their concerns surrounding McKowen's plans.

McKowen said he has started to make improvements to some of the existing buildings on the property including putting on new roofs. He is currently looking for tenants.

He said, “I'd love to have a manufacturer down there that can create a bunch of jobs.”

He said Sandy Podlucky still leases one of the buildings as an office.

Resident Jack Schmitt expressed concern that a noisy manufacturing plant might go in. McKowen said the largest building is only 8,000 square feet, so only light manufacturing or assembly would likely go in there.

The big five-story building will be coming down, McKowen said, and another building is being used to store equipment for a gas industry service company he owns called Keystone Gas Solutions.

He confirmed that he has received approval from the Department of Environmental Protection for a water management plan that permits the removal of up to 1,000,000 gallons of water per day from the artesian well that accesses the aquifer that is under the Youghiogheny River.

Barthels noted that the permit is good for only five years and the operation will be under constant monitoring by the DEP.

According to McKowen, the minimum flow rate of the Yough at Smithton is about 20,876,000 gallons per day and the predicted flow rate is about 53,838,000 gallons per day.

Additionally, he said a typical well uses about 5 to 6 million gallons of water to “frack.” He also noted, “I don't have a customer for the water at this point.”

He described a possible scenario based on conversations he's had with trucking companies. He said trucks would travel in groups of about five and pull into the property to a loading area where all five would be loaded at once and proceed in a loop to exit the property. There would be a minimal amount of idling and no backing up, he said.

It would take about 250 trucks to transport 1 million gallons of water, he said.

Resident Karen Primm asked about the wear and tear on the roads. McKowen said that he talked to PennDOT and they said since the roads are state roads, they should be able to withstand the heavy traffic. He also said that the trucking companies would be bonded to cover any damage that might occur.

Primm also asked that McKowen continue to communicate with the borough. “It's always the mystery of it that's the worst part — us imagining what's going to happen,” she said.

McKowen said several times through the course of discussions, “The gas industry is a good neighbor.”

Foster at one point asked what the gas industry was going to do for “little Smithton.” McKowen could not answer that except to talk about the associated increased tax revenue and trickle-down effect from property owners getting gas royalties spending more money in the community.

William S. Zirkle is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-872-6800.