Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dredge Site Evaluation - Hazleton PA


Geologist critical of dredge site tests
By KENT JACKSON (Staff Writer)
Published: October 30, 2009

A geologist's report questions whether the groundwater monitoring wells at Hazleton's proposed amphitheater site will protect public health.

Geologist Robert Gadinski said the site has only one well capable of detecting whether contaminants from fill placed in the site are entering groundwater. He also said an increase in pH and the presence of arsenic in one well suggest contamination might be occurring.

Mark McClellan, consultant for the developer that installed the wells, said Gadinski and the opposition group that he represents agreed to the placement and depth of the wells before dropping a legal challenge. McClellan said Gadinski and the group, Citizen Advocates United to Safeguard the Environment (CAUSE), also signed a legal agreement saying that they wouldn't attack the groundwater monitoring plan. They raise a claim about pH that McClellan called bogus.

The developer, Hazleton Creek Properties LLC, installed five monitoring wells last year as part of a settlement reached with CAUSE in a case before the state's Environmental Hearing Board. CAUSE challenged Hazleton Creek's permit to reclaim the site - which is between Routes 309, 93 and 924 - with dredged material, coal ash and kiln dust.

McClellan said the groundwater system cost $2 million and Hazleton Creek posted a bond to ensure water monitoring continues 10 years after work stops at the site, where Mayor Lou Barletta proposed building a 20,000-seat amphitheater, stores and restaurants.

The state Department of Environmental Protection reviewed the groundwater plan, verified the surface locations of the wells before they were dug and then approved the system as built and tested, McClellan said.

Gadinski said only one of the wells is downgradient and capable of capturing water that would move through the 10 million cubic yards of fill or more that Hazleton Creek plans to bring to the site. The other wells are upgradient and may never show contamination picked up from the fill, he said.

Based on available information and a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, Gadinski wrote that one well cannot monitor the 3,200 feet across the property plus the shallow and deep mine pools at the site.

"This isn't monitoring but rather an attempt at making it look like the site is being monitored," Gadinski wrote. He also said it is reprehensible that the department sanctioned the system.

McClellan and Gadinski both worked for the department before becoming consultants.

Asked to comment on the report, Mark Carmon, the department's spokesman in Wilkes-Barre, said he forwarded copies to colleagues reviewing Hazleton Creek's latest application.

In the application, the company requested permission to reclaim the site's largest strip mine with dredged material, regulated fill and fine material from construction and demolition sites.

People have until Nov. 23 to comment about the application and they may attend a hearing about the application scheduled for Nov. 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hazleton Area School District Administration Building.

In his report, "Technical Concerns Regarding the HCP Groundwater Monitoring System Hazleton City/Luzerne County/Pennsylvania," Gadinski said the pH at the downgradient well increased to 6.9 in a test on Jan. 20, 2009. He said the pH was 6.2 on Aug. 13, 2008. Rising pH suggested an alkaline substance entered the water, Gadinski said.

After the pH increased, arsenic was detected in the downgradient well and Gadinski said arsenic could become more soluble as the pH rises. He also said lead detected in one of the upgradient wells might show a connection to lead found in private wells off the site along Route 309.

McClellan replied that pH commonly fluctuates in mine pools. The tests done between August 2008 and March 2009 were to establish the background levels of contaminants such as arsenic and lead present before Hazleton Creek began permitted operations at the site, which formerly housed city landfills.

Hazleton Creek hasn't begun to mix dredged material with fly ash or kiln dust, which the company has approval to do under the terms of a state general permit.

Under another permit that doesn't require groundwater monitoring, the company has brought unmixed dredged material and regulated fill such as sand, stone, used asphalt, brick and block to the site.

"Everything Mr. Gadinski claimed here is erroneous, untrue and an absolute misrepresentation of the facts," McClellan said.

He also said Hazleton Creek is free to pursue damages against Gadinski and CAUSE for violating the agreement not to malign the groundwater monitoring plan.

When sending the report to the department, Tom Yurek, the president of CAUSE, wrote a cover letter saying he acted in the public interest.

"Note that this action is not a challenge by CAUSE to the PADEP or to Hazleton Creek Properties for the groundwater monitoring system," he wrote.

State Rep. Todd Eachus in the next few days plans to post a copy of Gadinski's report on his Web site, pahouse.com/eachus.


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