On Monday morning, representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), responding to calls from Jay Township residents, arrived at and assessed the Caledonia Bridge refurbishment project for any impropriety and possible environmental hazards or offenses.
At last Thursday's meeting of the Jay Township Supervisors, the cleaning and re-painting of the bridge was the subject of much controversy among residents and supervisors.
Residents present at the meeting said they were concerned that the township had not taken the necessary precautions in ensuring that the descaling and painting of the bridge did not pose any risk of polluting the waterway below, and pressed the supervisors for answers regarding their methods. Residents asked supervisors how they could be sure that corrosion taken off the bridge had not gotten into and contaminated the waterway. Supervisor Fran Gustafson said that there was hardly any corrosion to speak of on the outside of the bridge and that any dislodged from the inside was "swept up."
"We caught a lot of it, but you can't catch it all," Supervisor Murray Lilley said.
Robert Coppolo of Weedville, who presented photographs showing what appeared to be paint droplets and rust deposits on the rocks beneath the bridge, said that the project introduced a potential threat to downstream communities that use the waterway for surface and drinking water. Coppolo also produced a copy of the label from the paint used on the bridge and paperwork stating that the product should not be released or washed into "sewer or waterway."
At Thursday's meeting, residents also accused supervisors of not securing the appropriate permits from regulatory agencies prior to the project's undertaking. Supervisor Francis Gustafson said that they were not required to procure any permits pertaining to the project because no machinery had been placed in the water below the bridge.
Residents told supervisors that the DEP had been contacted as of Thursday's meeting.
Several witnesses said it appeared that workers were taking additional precautions on Monday in that Gustafson, lowered in the bucket of a backhoe, was equipped with a harness, whereas previously he had been secured only by a rope. Witnesses also said a long piece of sheet metal, acting as a drip pan, was also secured to the bridge in an attempt to collect stray paint and particulate matter, whereas before there had been none.
DEP Community Relations Coordinator Frida Tarbell of the Meadville office said that the measures taken were satisfactory and that A DEP field representative observed that, "There was no scraping or sandblasting that would cause paint to fall into the water, and as long as those scrapings were collected there should not be an issue there as far as the DEP is concerned."