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Warriors Mark developer and DEP reach agreement on sewage sludge dumping

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection and a developer from Warriors Mark Township have reached agreement on sewage sludge dumping on some of the developer’s properties.
The announcement of the agreement on Wednesday, came on the same day the agency met with an environmental group at the governor’s office in Harrisburg about their concerns over the dumping issue.
Under the agreement, John and Karen Gilliland are required to fully characterize the areas in question to determine the extent of any soil, surface water and groundwater contamination that the unlawful dumping may have caused.
According to a news release from DEP, the site characterization will be done through a series of monitoring well, and other tests. If the characterization shows the illegal sewage dumping caused contamination to the soil, surface water or groundwater, then the Gillilands will be required to develop and implement a plan to clean up contamination.
“This negotiated settlement is the result of an investigation that began in 2002,” said Rachel Diamond, DEP’s southcentral regional director. “It provides protection to the public’s health and safety and to the environment by testing for a wide range of other pollutants, including toxic pollutants. This sends a message that the department takes seriously the illegal disposal of wastes.”
According to the press release, the agreement requires detailed groundwater investigations if pollutant levels are slightly elevated and provides for the denial of sewage facilities planning for polluted areas.
The Gillilands are required to send notice of the agreement to anyone who purchased property in the areas in question and must offer to buy back the property from anyone who may want to do so.
The agreement includes a $20,000 civil penalty. The Gillilands have also agreed to pay penalties of $1,000 a day for each violation of the agreement.
“The Gillilands have already said they would cooperate and comply with whatever is necessary,” said Rebecca Walter, a realtor who represents the developer.
She noted a full site investigation had already been done, she also said based on her interpretation of the press release, she thought it indicated DEP was suggesting further testing might be needed.
A Huntingdon County-based environmental group, Save Our Streams, Inc., had previously asked DEP to expand its investigation beyond the properties in the agreement which were also part of a March 2 order which required certain actions by the Gillilands.
Save Our Streams Inc. had held a press conference last month to announce it had collected more than 1,000 signatures on petitions asking Gov. Rendell to intervene on its behalf. The group has expressed concerns for the environment, particularly the possibility of contamination of certain waterways in the Warriors Mark area.
Officials from the group, DEP and officials from the Governor Ed Rendell’s office met yesterday afternoon after the agreement between DEP and the Gillilands had been reached.
They (Save Our Streams) presented their petitions to the Governor’s office and we were invited to give our side of the story,” said John Repertz, DEP spokesperson.
“We actually were able to attend to provide details of the agreement because we officially had a signed agreement,” Repertz told The Daily Herald. “One of the reasons they (the group) had not heard back from us in the past, was we really couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation. It’s not like we were ignoring them we simply couldn’t comment.
“We explained the steps we took and what the agreement does,” said Repertz. “It’s a very complicated agreement. From our perspective we were satisfied with the way the meeting went.”
Save Our Streams issued a brief statement this morning just before presstime.
“We are pleased by the content of the consent agreement,” said Dorothy Gurney, the group’s secretary. “We are more pleased by the fact it does not end this matter.
“At the governor’s office on June 9, DEP assured us that this is an ongoing investigation,” Gurney told The Daily Herald. “We have in fact provided significant information relevant to the continuing investigation. “We were also assured the governor’s office has a continuing interest in this matter.”
Earlier this year, Richard Barefoot, a former Blair County waste hauler, identified several sites on Gilliland properties where he had disposed of portable toilet and residential and commercial sewage sludge.
According to the DEP press release, physical evidence of sewage dumping was discovered on the property owned or previously owned by the Gillilands.
Under terms of a previous DEP consent order and agreement with Barefoot, he is no longer permitted to collect, transport or dispose of residential and commercial septage and portable toilet waste.
“The activity of the Gillilands and Mr. Barefoot is part of a continuing course of conduct,” said Diamond. “DEP’s goal was to stop such activities from occurring and force those responsible to clean up any problems that may exist. This agreement does that.”
DEP is continuing its investigation into Barefoot’s activities and intends to prosecute all instances of illegal sewage sludge disposal according to the state agency’s statement.