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Burrell Township residents request water line extension

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

A group of residents from the Penn View area brought their water worries before the Burrell Township supervisors at the June 19 meeting.

Jack Lucas spoke for citizens who live on Palmer Road and have been experiencing water issues they attribute to mining and drilling in their area over the past few years. The area activity has included deep mines, strip mines, gas well drilling and seismograph testing.

They requested help from the supervisors in obtaining public water service, noting they have experienced diminished water pressure, or in more serious cases, complete loss of water from their wells.

Lucas said his parents, Betty and Hansel Lucas of Palmer Road, recently had to drill a new well, but the water it produced was no good.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has been notified, and officials suggested that mine and drilling entities that have worked in the area be contacted.

A letter written in response to a concerned resident by George Sulkosky, executive director of Highridge Water Authority, suggested those experiencing water problems should contact DEP. Sulkosky noted that Highridge was asked to prepare an estimate several years ago for extending water service to Palmer Road, leading him to believe there was the potential for water loss in that area.

Lucas said the local DEP office was contacted, which began a debate on where responsibility rests for the water issues.

In order to bring municipal water to Palmer Road, an extension of about 4,700 feetwould be needed, on which an estimated 11 houses are located.

Municipal water lines run up to Pennview Equipment, installed by Highridge within the past five years due to the Rt. 22 widening project, Distefano said. “It's not cheap,” he said of extending public water service.

He suggested residents circulate a petition to the homeowners on Palmer Road to determine what the interest level is for having municipal water service.

“We need a list to take to Highridge to say, ‘Look, these are the people who want it,'” Distefano said. He noted that the township has a mandatory tap-in fee, which is required in order to qualify for state funding.

He said residents who feel their water has been diminished substantially by mining or drilling should write a brief description of when they first noticed the problem and how it has progressed from that point. Those accounts can be taken to DEP officials. Distefano said the supervisors will then request a meeting between DEP officials and the affected residents.

The supervisors listed extension of public water service to the Fairfield Heights area as one of three priorities for use of a community development block grant the township will receive from the state in 2013 — along with continuation of housing rehabilitation and affordable homeownership programs.

County officials, who administer the annual block grant, approved the supervisors' request to shift $68,000 in 2012 funding from the Fairfield Heights project in order to complete design and construction of improvements at the Black Lick fire hall for handicapped access. The work could be under way this fall. Firefighters have been raising money to replace a handicapped ramp at the hall.

Brian Palmer, chief of the Black Lick Volunteer Fire Company, reported that the department will undergo an Aug. 5 audit through Insurance Services Office, a nationwide company that sets insurance rates for homeowners.

The audit will look at the department's ability to connect to a water supply, how much hose it has and if it's tested regularly, while inspecting fire engines for proper equipment and checking if fire hydrant systems and water mains are in compliance through Highridge — and also, “whether we're able to mitigate any emergency that would happen within the township,” Palmer said.

The last audit, in 1998, assigned designations for the two municipalities in the department's service area —Class 6 for Burrell Township and Class 9 for Blacklick Township — with Class 10 the worst possible score.

“Obviously, Blacklick Township is a 9 because of the water supply issues,” Palmer said, noting the ambitious goal this year is to increase to a score of 4, or even 3, which should lower insurance rates for local homeowners.

“We've made a lot of improvements with the fire company since then,” Palmer said, including the purchase of an aerial ladder truck, updates to the pumpers and the water supply system, and installation of new hydrants.

The department has procured a reserve pumper. North Apollo firefighters donated the unit that is expected to be in service in July following some engine work.

Palmer also asked residents who have fire hydrants on their property to take care of any overgrown weeds surrounding them.

The supervisors appointed: Mark Olechovski for six months to the Burrell Township Sewer Authority Board, to fulfill the unexpired term of the late Carl Yarchak; Annette Lucas of Blairsville to the Burrell Township Library board for three years; and Stephanie Reeger of Black Lick to the Burrell Township Parks board for five years.

Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or

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