Homeowners worry about impact of local excavation

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2004

Attention Ciechanski area homeowners:

Mercedes Gibbs has once again applied for a borough permit to dig gravel from her existing pit located at the corner of Ciechanski-Virginia Drive-Canvasback. She is now claiming that the water table is at 42 feet, which those of us with wells at 34 to 37 feet know is a false statement. She is planning to excavate down to 34 feet, which is an additional 4-plus feet from where the deepest part of the pit floor stands currently. Our water table has been breached already, and this planned excavation would leave our aquifer open over the entire pit floor resulting in an 18-acre lake that would be even more susceptible to pollutants and waste dumping.

Warren Finley, the borough compliance officer, issued a "cease and desist" order to Jason Foster in June, and since that time Mr. Foster has continued to excavate and remove water illegally. The borough fine for defying a cease and desist order is only $100 per day, and Jason Foster is making many times that by selling the material from the pit. He informed Warren Finley that he would "just take the fine" and keep digging. Currently, hydroseeding mix is being pumped into the open water, causing contamination. (The Department of Natural Resources Division of Environmental Conservation emergency spill response team is investigating.)

We must act now to protect our drinking water, road quality and property values. The borough has set a public hearing date for this permit application at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Seward. Obviously, the borough planning department is trying to discourage us from testifying against this application, by holding the hearing in Seward. We had several property owners testify against the permit last time (May 10), and many will be needed again to prevent this from being approved. There is photo documentation, as well as eye-witness accounts of the illegal activity in the pit. We have been gathering evidence against this permit for many months now and have a strong case legally. We also have spoken with an environmental attorney and been advised that our rights as property owners are being infringed upon, and we would be well within our rights to file suit against Mrs. Gibbs, Mr. Foster, Mr. Amend, the borough and the state.

We do not wish to enter in to a long court battle over this and would prefer to have the borough and DEC do their respective jobs and uphold the existing ordinances. It is now necessary for all area property owners to write to the borough planning department or plan to attend the meeting tonight in Seward and let your opinion be known. This may very well be the last opportunity we have to prevent further damages to our drinking water.

If you have any questions, or need transportation or baby sitting for Seward, please contact Travis and Crystal Penrod at 283-4626 or Tim Agosti at 283-7055. Also, when you see Jason Foster or others excavating, pumping water or dumping waste into the pit, please call Max Best and complain.

It is crucial that we all take responsibility for notifying the authorities. Officials can field complaints about this situation. The borough themselves told us they are a "complaint driven" system, so we must all complain together to get something done about this. There are a few of us that have been complaining and calling since this all began. We need more help. This has to be a group effort in order to make a difference.

Travis and Crystal Penrod and Tim Agosti, Ciechanski Area Homeowners Association

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