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Fines related to Ford City water problems are doubled

Friday, March 28, 2014, 12:21 a.m.
 

Ford City is in deeper debt from its water woes than previously believed.

Daily fines — levied because the borough missed Department of Environmental Protection deadlines for providing solutions to its water problems — have doubled from $250 to $500 since March 4, said John Poister, community relations coordinator for the DEP southeast regional office.

“Ford City is actually in deeper trouble than we thought,” Poister wrote in an email on Friday.

As of Friday, the town has amassed $16,000 in daily fines and other penalties imposed by the DEP. The borough is required to apply for a water discharge permit and provide a solution for replacing its aging water plant — two things it has failed to do — before the fines will stop.

Problems with the plant on Neale Avenue include that it releases untreated backwash containing dirt and other sediments into the Allegheny River and does not have a DEP permit authorizing the practice.

The options the borough has for solving the problem are to build a plant or contract with the private company Pennsylvania-American Water for services.

The Ford City Borough Council will have a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss which of those options it will choose. Representatives from Pennsylvania-American Water will be at the meeting at the Slovak Club, 910 Sixth Ave.

Until the borough reaches a decision on which option it will choose, it cannot file for the discharge permit and the daily fines will continue to mount.

“We need to make a decision so we can all move forward,” borough engineer Jim Garvin said. “The $16,000 is a terrible amount, but hopefully we can work with DEP to get it reduced.”

Garvin has paid DEP $7,250 of his own money for fines against the borough for failing to meet deadlines for filing a feasibility plan and for failing to make a written request for proposals to Manor Township and Pennsylvania-American for water service.

At one time, contracting with Manor for service or renovating its 90-year-old water plant were options being considered by the borough. Neither of those options is considered feasible anymore — a fact that surprised Councilman Jerry Miklos when he learned that building a plant or contracting with Pennsylvania-American are the only choices left on the table for discussion.

“It was news to us,” he said, adding that Council did not know until recently that the daily fines had doubled. “It's not good.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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