Botched dredging project's cost likely to climb in Hempfield
Hempfield taxpayers shelled out more than $32,000 to dredge a creek running through a township park that damaged nearby wetlands, according to a review of bills and work orders obtained under the state's Right-to-Know Act.
Taxpayers can expect the costs to keep climbing because remediation work on the wetlands hasn't started, said a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection in Pittsburgh.
“They haven't done any serious work yet,” John Poister said. “There's quite a bit more.”
Township Supervisor Jerry Fagert oversaw the work as part of his plan to create a pond similar to one at a Penn Township park.
Penn Township officials followed environmental guidelines when its pond was installed, said township attorney Les Mlakar, who also represents Hempfield.
The money in Hempfield was spent on engineering fees and materials, the invoices show. After the damage was discovered, the state ordered a halt to the work.
Neither Fagert nor board President Doug Weimer responded to requests for comment.
Poister said Hempfield will be required to sign a consent order that will commit the township to restoring the wetlands, which are home to a variety of plant species and wildlife, according to an engineering report. Both sides have exchanged recommendations on how the damage can be repaired.
“There's always a lot of back-and-forth on these things,” Poister said.
A DEP inspection in April found that the township had dredged 200 feet of stream channel and expanded the stream bed and banks to 10 feet, according to the report. The soil removed from the stream was dumped into the wetlands.
Township workers placed biodegradable logs, known as “coconut logs,” on the stream bed. The logs create pools that allow sediment to accumulate and stabilize the stream bed, the report shows.
The wetlands once were located on property where the Wal-Mart plaza was built on Route 30. As part of the deal to allow Wal-Mart to construct the store, the wetlands were recreated at the park.
Protection of wetlands is covered by the Dam Safety and Encroachment Water Management Rule, which is overseen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The act required Hempfield to file an impact statement with the Army Corps of Engineers before proceeding with any work.
Poister said Hempfield could be fined for causing the damage, but a decision on any financial penalty is a long way off.
“Fines are the last thing that we work on in regard to any incident,” he said. “Our primary consideration in this particular case is to restore the area. That's our No. 1 goal. We're not there yet.”
If the DEP decides to fine Hempfield, the amount could be substantial.
Earlier this month, the state fined a Beaver County man $137,800 for destroying wetlands by building a pond on his Marshall farm in Allegheny County. Francois Bitz of Baden destroyed 2 acres of wetlands in 2009 and 2010 when he built the recreational pond, according to the DEP.
Mlakar said he's not sure who is at fault because the project never was approved by the board of supervisors.
“I've looked at what occurred,” he said. “It's really a toss-up. I can't put my finger on who was at fault.”
Fagert, who oversees the department of public works, said previously that the dredging was done to remove debris from the stream bed. Mlakar said the consent order eventually will determine who was at fault.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Corbett rips Wolf tax proposals during Hempfield campaign stop
- Former Penn-Trafford student put on house arrest for drug sales
- Laurel Mountain ski plan needs more information, planners say
- One-day lane restrictions set on Route 30 in North Huntingdon
- Ligonier Township zoning officer resigns
- Greensburg driver charged after ATV struck on rail tracks
- Ligonier Township wants more info on cell tower proposal
- Rostraver woman, 91, injured in home invasion; 3 sought
- Greater Latrobe teachers, school board approve 5-year contract
- House 58th District seat candidates focus on education, taxes
- Unity rally aims to counter negativity of KKK message in ’97