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Valley News Dispatch

PGW underground fire still burning, plant closure effect on East Deer's budget unknown

| Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, 1:30 p.m.

The underground fire below the former Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in East Deer shows no signs of abating.

Not even 400,000 gallons of water from the Allegheny River poured on a fissure last week “had any noticeable effect.”

That’s according to East Deer Commissioners Chairman Tony Taliani, who was one of 17 municipal and health officials who met recently to discuss the fire at the now-closed factory.

Representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department were on hand. A DEP attorney was reportedly on hand to research any legal remedies.

“I feel extinguishing the fire is the only solution so we can get a new tenant,” said Taliani.

PGW said it will continue to update fire news on its website: pgwcommunityupdate.com The latest website update was dated Sept. 3.

“PGW and the East Deer Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) are working together to flow limited amounts of water in the southeast area behind the plant in an effort to the slow the advancement of the underground combustion event. Teams will direct water into the ground-level cracks in the area, which may cause steam to rise during the process. The teams will monitor the progress and may adjust to new areas, if the effort is successful.”

It is believed the fire started from coal refuse under the plant, which had operated since 1883 and was closed on Aug. 17.

The plant closure is expected to have a troubling effect on East Deer’s 2019 budget. PGW would still pay property taxes, but will have a smaller tax bill with the shuttered plant’s value dropping.

The plant used 15,000 to 17,000 of water monthly and employees paid about $10,000 in Local Services Tax.

“It’s very difficult to determine the financial impact from the closing of PGW until we start working on our budget,” Taliani said. “We’ll have a real budgetary challenge.”

East Deer will schedule budget meetings every Thursday starting on Oct. 4 until a preliminary budget is formulated.

The Thursday meetings will begin at 6 p.m. in the township building.

One piece of good news for East Deer is the fact that its uniformed and nonuniformed retirement funds contain surpluses and the township won’t have to pay into them next year.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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