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DEP backtracks on cause of blue creek

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is retracting a report that printer's ink turned a Fayette County creek blue in November.

“We have not been able to conclusively determine the source of the blue coloring of (Connellsville-Breakneck) creek,” DEP spokesman John Poister said on Wednesday. “And we have not issued any notice of violation to National Envelope, but we are continuing to discuss with them the proper disposal of ink residue.”

The blue color visibly stained the creek, which runs along Buttermore Boulevard in Connellsville Township, on Nov. 7.

Poister on Monday reported that inspectors had determined that a contractor Rodney Allen had improperly disposed of printer's ink from National Envelope in Upper Tyrone. It was believed then that the ink leaked into the creek from Allen's truck after he transported it from the facility to his property on Breakneck Road in the township.

That report, Poister said, was based on erroneous information provided by a DEP employee.

“It was a case of crossed wires,” Poister said. “Somebody thought they had the correct information, but they only had partial information, and they misinterpreted it and gave it to me.”

A notice of violation was issued to Linda Carlton Allen, Poister said, but not to National Envelope, as had been originally reported. The violation notice was issued after Rodney Allen told investigators that blue dye used in an improvement project at his house leaked into the creek, Poister said.

“Mr. Rodney Allen has told our inspectors that a concrete and blue-dye mixture was poured at his home, and it leaked out into the creek,” Poister said. “Therefore, we issued a notice of violation to Linda Carlton Allen,” who was present when the concrete was poured.

National Envelope, in a statement, said it “takes environmental protection very seriously” and is working with the DEP.

“The preliminary investigation has determined that the issue was caused by a contractor for one of National Envelope's vendors,” it said. “We have already taken steps to make sure that similar issues do not happen in the future and are reiterating our commitment to protecting the environment to all of our local vendors.”

Poister said investigators are attempting to identify the substance that colored the creek, but “it's very difficult for us to conclusively tie what it was that actually went into the creek because there was nothing there for us to sample to make any kind of solid judgment.”

Poister said DEP has expanded its investigation into Rodney Allen at his Breakneck Road property and his recycling business, Allen Enterprises, on Bellview Road in Bullskin Township.

“Our investigation into Mr. Allen's activities is lengthy and ongoing and involves a number of violations on storage of material,” Poister said.

Alleged violations include commingling recyclable paper with municipal waste. Poister said Rodney Allen was issued a notice of violation in October for failing to ensure ink residue was removed from plastic containers accepted at his facility.

Poister said civil penalties are pending against Rodney Allen, who could not be reached for comment.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or

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