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Deadline set to remove explosives from Luzerne waste dump

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Federal officials intervened at a coal waste dump in Fayette County where a company has 130 boreholes in the ground full of small explosives, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration is working with the DEP to remove the explosives at the LaBelle dump in Luzerne, DEP spokesman John Poister said. Federal officials are demanding a removal plan from CGG, a contractor working for Chevron that placed explosives there to do seismic testing, even though its permit explicitly prohibited work at sites such as LaBelle.

Poister said he erred when he said last week that the explosives were removed. He said he miscommunicated with DEP staff and that CGG left the explosives in their 25-foot-deep holes until it could coordinate with federal officials. The department set a May 8 deadline for their removal, which all parties have agreed to work toward, Poister said.

“I don't really think there is a tremendous risk, because they obviously have to be connected to detonators and things like that,” Poister said. “You're dealing with explosives, so you just always want to be extra careful.”

Officials at CGG, based in Paris, could not be reached. A spokeswoman at the Mine Safety and Health Administration said she did have not details.

State officials do not have an explanation from CGG officials about how and why they violated their permit, Poister said. State officials are concentrating on the cleanup effort and will review the cause of the problem later, he said.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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