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Jay Twp. residents question environmental impact of bridge refurbishment

September 15, 2011

Photo by Colin Deppen Jay Township Supervisors and attendees discussed regulatory measures and possible environmental impact related to the recent renovations of Caledonia bridge at Thursday's meeting.

At Thursday's meeting of the Jay Township Supervisors, one of the matters discussed by residents and officials was the recent descaling and painting of the Caledonia Bridge. Residents concerned that that the activity could pose an environmental hazard or warrant a fine from the DEP [state Department of Environmental Protection] pressed the supervisors for accountability.
"Did they procure permits before they started, from the state or the EPA, whoever you need to get permits from? You said you would check into the permits," said Nadine Pirrazi of Byrnedale.
"We were going to get a permit," Supervisor Francis Gustafson said.
When asked why so little oversight was employed in the process of cleaning and re-painting the bridge, Gustafson said that they didn't need to secure permits because no machinery was placed in the water. The bridge's exterior was accessed from above, with Gustafson seated in the bucket of a backhoe being lowered over the side from above.
"The sad thing, Fran, is it's not you dealing with the DEP, it's the entire township that's going to have to pay a fine. Any corrosion or any paint, even if it is sulfur water, it is against the law for it to go into the stream," Pirrazi said.
With regard to particulate matter falling into the water below, Lilley said, "You can't catch it all. I'm not going to say we didn't get some into the creek, but we didn't pressure-wash the bridge."
"There was hardly anything on the outside of that bridge," Gustafson added.
"You said there was nothing coming off the bridge, but you said you were sweeping it into a box. What were you sweeping into the box?" asked Peggy Coppolo of Weedville.
Gustafson reiterated that there was hardly anything to be cleaned off of the bridge.
Robert Coppolo of Weedville provided photographs showing flecked paint deposits on stones below the bridge. Coppolo voiced concern that the process of prepping and painting of the bridge could pollute the Susquehanna waterway, which he said is an aquatic resource for communities downstream. In a letter to the supervisors, he wrote,
"According to published documents, there is a surface water intake for the borough of Milton...and farther downriver, drinking water is withdrawn by Susquehanna Township."
Coppolo had submitted an open records request from the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. He requested items such as labels from paint containers used in the painting of the bridge, permits issued by regulatory agencies, and pollution prevention and control plans for the project. Coppolo said he was only provided a copy of the paint can label. He pointed out that there were several precautionary statements on the label and provided copies of the material safety data sheets or MSDS which identified hazardous ingredients in the paint and potential health effects. The material safety data sheet (MSDS) in the environmental release measures states, "Do not wash to sewer or waterway." "One would suspect the introduction of this product to a waterway may adversely affect the ecology of the river system," Coppolo said.

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