Penn Hills files complaints with Pa. PUC for illegal dumpsites
Penn Hills has filed two complaints with the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission since June regarding illegal dumpsites a half-mile apart along Leechburg Road.
The first complaint, filed by Penn Hills Manager Scott Andrejchak on June 5, said there are around 200 old tires that have been dumped on the property behind the municipality’s public works building.
“It is a major health and safety hazard because tire dumps lead to West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illness,” Andrejchak wrote. He also said the tires pose a fire hazard, which would be an “environmental disaster.”
In the same complaint, Andrejchak said the municipality is also concerned about a “building on the property that is un-secure.”
“We have noticed people trespassing into the building; we suspect to party and use illicit drugs. We are concerned that by having the building unsecured, it could lead to a fire,” the manager wrote.
Andrejchak said the municipality does not have the authority to clean up tire dumps that are located on railroad property, which is regulated by the PUC.
“We don’t have jurisdiction over the railroad. They have to be cited by the state,” he told the Tribune-Review.
On July 1, a PUC representative met with Andrejchak and public works officials to visit the sites that generated the complaint, according to an internal PUC memorandum obtained by the Tribune-Review.
The site, according to Google Maps, is located at 6711 Leechburg Road.
In the memorandum, Richard Rupp, a PUC rail safety inspector, confirmed Andrejchak’s concerns and said the building was “unsecured with doors missing and windows broken out.” Inside, the building had an open pit likely used to service locomotives, wood, bags and buckets with unknown contents within them and a burned vehicle.
“Much of the walls were covered with graffiti,” Rupp wrote.
Rupp said he tried to track down the property owners, which are listed on Allegheny County real estate records as Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Company; located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Pittsburgh Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad; located at 1200 Penn Ave. in Pittsburgh.
Efforts to contact those property owners failed.
Andrejchak also complained to Rupp via an August email about a clogged pipe that runs under the railroad yard near the Penn Hills Public Works building.
“We do not think the railroad has cleaned out that pipe in 20 years,” Andrejchak said, adding the municipality lost road salt worth $25,000 due to flooding.
Andrejchak said he has not heard back from Rupp in regards to the clogged pipe.
Rupp was not immediately available to comment on the status of PUC’s investigation into Andrejchak’s complaints.
Andrejchak filed a second complaint with the PUC on Oct. 3 following complaints of a tire dump site on Union Railroad property along Leechburg Road, near its intersection with Milltown Road.
“The tires are a safety, fire and health hazard … This dump exists very close to a residential area,” he wrote.
Union Railroad is owned by Transtar Inc, a subsidiary of United States Steel.
Meghan Cox, a USS spokeswoman, said the corporation has “taken a series of steps” to prevent people from accessing its railyard.
“We have alerted local authorities to this practice and will continue to work with them moving forward to enforce trespassing laws,” Cox said. She did not offer any further details.
Andrejchak said his office’s efforts to eliminate the dump sites on Leechburg Road align with a recent strategy to ratchet up the municipality’s enforcement on illegal dumping.
The municipality has charged a total of four men since July after identifying them with a hidden camera as they dumped debris in the Lincoln Park area of Penn Hills. One of them, Aaron Evans, faces $4,800 in fines and was placed on a monthly payment plan of $400 in August.
“We know of dumps and we’re cleaning them up,” he said. “You have to have a strategy, otherwise all we do is pick up tires and pick up tires. It has to stop and it will stop.”
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .