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Hempfield supervisors budget $150K to fix damage workers inflicted on wetlands

| Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, 9:50 a.m.

Hempfield taxpayers could pay as much as $150,000 next year to fix the damage done to wetlands in a township park when public works employees dredged a stream, according to the proposed 2013 budget.

The board of supervisors budgeted that amount for remediation work at Hempfield Park, though manager Andy Walz said the figure is an estimate.

“Obviously, we're preparing,” Walz said.

Board President Doug Weimer said the money was budgeted “in anticipation of the DEP consent order. We budgeted that money for future restoration of the wetlands.”

The figure doesn't include more than $32,000 the township has spent this year on preliminary work or a possible fine that could be leveled against Hempfield by the state Department of Environmental Protection for violating environmental laws.

The DEP is preparing a consent order that will require the township to fix the damage done when employees dredged 200 feet of a stream running through the park, widening the banks and dumping the debris into the wetlands. The dumping left a mound of dirt 200 feet long and 10 feet wide, according to a state inspection report.

The work violated state regulations governing the protection of wetlands, which are habitats for plants and wildlife.

The supervisors will not reveal who ordered the work, which was part of a plan proposed by Supervisor Jerry Fagert to build a pond in the park. Fagert oversees the Department of Public Works.

“We're waiting for the consent order that will help us conclude that,” Weimer said.

The state contends that plans were to alter the path of the stream, which is an unnamed tributary of Brush Creek, so the pond could be constructed. The work violated the Dam Safety and Environmental Water Encroachment Act, according to the DEP.

The cost of repairing damage to wetlands varies depending on the size of the area.

A study by the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York estimated the remediation costs of wetlands at $3,500 to $80,000 per acre. The stream in Hempfield Park drains into a 640-acre area, according to an engineering report.

The state found plans submitted by the township inadequate for fixing the damage and returned them for revisions, documents show.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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