Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jay Land/Ringgold Acquisition Group II LLC delivering water from site in West Penn Township to Niagara Bottling without required permits

On the border of West Penn Township with East Brunswick Township, there is a long history of issues with a water extraction operation on Blue Mountain Drive, operated by MC Resource Development which is owned by Jay Land.  Mr. Land's family has been in the water business in Pennsylvania for decades and is not new to controversy - a story from 1995 shows that Berks County residents were up in arms about Land-owned Wissahickon Springs' plans to tap the Oley Valley to the tune of 144,000 gallons a day, and truck it away by tanker.

Now, a company named Ringgold Acquisition Group II LLC (RAG II) and also owned by Land, has commenced commercial water extraction only two miles down Blue Mountain Drive at its intersection with Fort Franklin Road.  Like his other operations, Land has attracted the ire of neighbors who are fed up with heavy truck traffic, noise, and the threat that their water supplies will be affected.  Since approximately October 7, 2016, water tankers estimated to hold 6500 gallons each and weigh 40 tons have been observed to be leaving the Fort Franklin Road site at the rate of about 40 tankers a week, or 37,100 gallons a day.  They turn right onto Blue Mountain Drive, and then make a sharp right onto Route 309 South (red circle above).  Citizens and authorities have followed the tankers to Niagara Bottling Inc in Fogelsville, PA

Tanker arrives at Niagara Bottling in October 2016, followed from #1 Fort Franklin Road

There are some key differences in the new operation at Fort Franklin Road, however.  Let's look at them one at a time:

1. RAG has not obtained required permits from the DEP or Delaware River Basin Commission to operate a commercial water extraction operation.  It is believed that they haven't even applied for these permits.  A water bottler can't accept water from a non-DEP permitted supply.  Mr. Land has stated at a BOS meeting that he would not sell water to a bottler until such time that he obtained these permits.
Jay Land states at Dec 2015 BOS meeting he will not truck water to bottler without permits

2. RAG obtained a West Penn Use permit for water harvesting in January of 2015, and Mr. Land stated at multiple West Penn BOS meetings that he is hauling water off the property for agricultural use.  RAG is violating its West Penn permit, because by delivering water to a bottling company it is not using the water for the purpose stated, and is not conforming to all state and federal regulations.
Jay Land states at Dec 2015 BOS meeting he is hauling water for ag use

3. RAG is operating in a patently and conspicuously dangerous manner on Blue Mountain Drive.  Tankers have been observed to cross completely over the double yellow line of Blue Mountain Drive, in preparation for turning onto Route 309 South.  This creates a very real possibility of collisions with vehicles turning onto Blue Mountain Drive from either Route 309 South or North.  Furthermore, drivers who abruptly stop on Route 309 either northbound or southbound because such trucks are blocking the westbound travel lane of Blue Mountain Drive are at risk of being rear-ended by high speed travelers on Route 309.  Lastly, northbound vehicles on Route 309 who begin a turn into Blue Mountain Drive and have to stop in the southbound lanes because they find the Blue Mountain travel lane is blocked are at risk of an oblique head-on with vehicles travelling south at high speeds.

Water tanker from #1 Fort Franklin stopped, blocking entrance from Route 309 
to Blue Mountain Drive in Oct 2016

4. RAG is operating in a patently and conspicuously dangerous manner on Route 309.  Tanker tractors have been observed to cross completely over the double line and block both northbound travel lanes when turning onto Route 309 South.  This creates a head-on accident risk in both northbound lanes with vehicles travelling at high speeds.
Tanker pulling across double line of 309 and across both northbound lanes
Note guard rail mangled by tanker on October 8, 2016

Car and tractor trailer travelling northbound PA 309 have close call with water tanker

5. RAG trucks at 80,000 pounds are more than twice the weight limit of 15 tons recommended be posted on Blue Mountain Drive in a November 2015 Road Structure Engineering Study, which cost West Penn Township taxpayers $10,500.  This study found that Blue Mountain Drive requires another 1-1/2" of pavement in order to withstand the 15-ton recommended limit.  This study also found that Blue Mountain Drive is not wide enough for a long truck to negotiate curves without encroaching on the opposite travel lane.
$10,500 Road Structure Study's recommendations to post weight limits and bond
have been ignored.

6. RAG tankers are travelling onto the dirt shoulder of Blue Mountain Drive, which is not only illegal and extremely unsafe (see #3 above), but will destroy the pavement at the transition.  Mr. Land's company MC Resource Development "generously" donated $6000 towards the road fund as reported here.  Whoa daddy, that will fill a couple of potholes until your tankers cause the patches to fall out.
Tire tracks this past week reveal extremely dangerous and illegal traffic pattern detailed
in #3 above.  Note cracked pavement - it won't be there long at this rate

7. A tanker believed to be travelling from RAG destroyed the guardrail at the intersection of Blue Mountain Drive and Route 309 on October 8, 2016.  A resident observed a tanker stopped at the scene, but it left before police arrived on the scene.
Guard rail damage which occurred on October 8, 2016 - a witness alleges a water tanker
caused the damage.

8. RAG never submitted a Land Development Plan in conjunction with its Use permit, despite multiple certified letters from West Penn Zoning Officer William Anders.  One Notice of Violation (addressed to the landowner) is dated March 18, 2015.

9. On July 2, 2016, West Penn BOS Chairman James Dean informed a resident that the Zoning Officer was drafting a Cease and Desist Order against RAG.  This order was never issued.  Why not?

Official Comment by West Penn Chairman James Dean - no comment
On October 18, James Dean was asked to comment on the operation at #1 Fort Franklin Road, in light of the recent increase in activity and associated issues on the roads, destruction of public property apparently by a tanker associated with operation, the compromise of safety of the residents, and the fact that Mr. James Dean himself had told a resident on July 2, 2016 that the West Penn Zoning Officer was drafting a Cease and Desist Order.

His response was that the health safety and welfare of West Penn residents was the Board's primary concern, but counsel had recommended that the Board not comment on what steps the Board is taking to respond to the significant increase in activity at the site.

What is the West Penn Board of Supervisors waiting for?

West Penn Supervisors are on notice an unsafe condition exists since 2015

At the November 2, 2015 West Penn BOS meeting, resident Judy Russo reported that she was very concerned because she witnessed a very slow tanker cross totally across the oncoming lanes of travel of Route 309 (as in #4 above).  Here we are a year later, a Cease and Desist Order was supposedly being drafted in July of this year, yet it hasn't been issued.  If a serious accident involving a water tanker occurs (one with no injuries apparently already has), it will be on the West Penn BOS to explain, and possibly be held responsible.  This says nothing of the real threat to the wells of residents in the area - to have a non-permitted operation sucking large amounts of water out of the ground, there is no telling what the consequences could or will be.

A Cease and Desist Order must be issued immediately
Mr. Dean and his fellow supervisors would be well advised to get off their asses and see that the West Penn Zoning Officer issue a Cease and Desist Order immediately.  Not take a vote in November, requesting the Zoning Officer do his job.  Call him today and tell him the police chief tracked a tanker from Fort Franklin Road to Fogelsville.  Remind him that he issued a Violation of the permit in March 2015.  Ask where the devil is the Cease and Desist Order (even though the supervisors are very likely aware why it was not issued)?  This isn't rocket science or brain surgery.  "We are most concerned about the health safety and welfare of our residents" is the right thing to say, because that is what the Municipalities Planning Code and Second Class Township Code dictate the Supervisors' duty is.  Words are cheap, and we have a problem, Houston.  Ringgold Acquisition Group II LLC has violated the terms of its permit in more than one way, has thumbed its nose time and again at West Penn residents, and is operating in a manner that puts motorists, citizens and township property at great risk.

1 comment: