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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Well goes dry at property of 2015 Eldred Board of Supervisor candidate - US Gov't groundwater monitoring device appears nearby

This past week, a new well was drilled reportedly out of necessity on Wood View Road in Kunkletown, near the site of the planned Nestle Water extraction.

Ironically, the site of this replacement well is the home of none other than Kevin Silliman, candidate for Eldred Township supervisor in 2015, at the height of the furor over Nestle Waters/Deer Park's plan to extract 200,000 gallons of water a day from the aquifer underlying the heart of Kunkletown.  Mr. Silliman was defeated by Joann Bush in the general election.

A (replacement) well grows in Kunkletown

An Eldred resident was interviewed, and related 3 conversations he had with Mr. Silliman during the run-up to the election.  This resident wanted to know where Mr. Silliman stood on the issues.

Q: Was Mr. Silliman either pro-Nestle, or anti-Nestle?
A: He kept saying that he had to appear neutral, since he was running for supervisor.
Q: Did he appear to have a bias, an inclination towards one side or the other"
A: Not with me, but the public widely believed him to be pro-Nestle.
Q: Did you ask specifically what he thought of the proposal?
A: Yes, and he said that he didn't know enough about the issue to offer an opinion one way or the other.  I felt that his apparent lack of interest and failure to educate himself about the most volatile issue in town was an indication that he didn't care, or was in favor of it.

Mr. Silliman probably cares now.  Reportedly $6000 had been spent prior to the well being completed.

edit 10/19 - Mr. Silliman has posted some comments on this blog, making some interesting statements.

  1. He suggested that as a journalist, I may want to write differently.  I'm not a journalist, I am a bottom feeding blogger.  World of difference.
  2. He suggested I traumatized his family, wagged around "private property" and the PA State Police.  What happened is a car pulled up behind me on Wood View as I was preparing to take my first picture, and I moved to the shoulder of the road, with my back to that car.  The car pulled into the driveway and behind shrubs as I was taking a picture from where I stood, and its horn blew several times.  A woman yelled out of the car towards the house something, maybe someone's name, and then started yelling "EXCUSE ME!" "EXCUSE ME!" while the she was still behind the shrubs.  The woman then appeared at the end of the driveway continuing to yell "EXCUSE ME!", just as I had taken a picture 15' down the road towards my car.  As I got in, she approached me, gestured off towards her house, and said "I just saw you on my property!", to which I replied truthfully :"I was not on your property, I was on the road."  I added that it is legal to take pictures from public property, but not people, and she gestured as if to say "well, my property IS private."  The law is that pictures may be taken of private property from public property, as long as it isn't of something trademarked, like an architecturally unique structure.  Like my home, I doubt that the home in question is trademarked.  You also can't take pictures of some government buildings.  Think Google Maps - how can they publish pictures of your house?  It's legal, that's how.
  3. I didn't traumatize this family - the woman escalated the situation as I calmly explained it was legal for me to take the pictures I did from the road.  She was yelling out my license plate as I drove away.  Started yelling as soon as she hit her driveway with the car, and didn't stop until I was down the street.  I remained calm and on public property at all times.  If Mr. Silliman is thinking of pressing charges, he better find a very creative camera that miraculously moves me onto his property, or change the law.  The only person I interacted with was the woman, who didn't appear to want to accept my explanation.  I can't control that, and shouldn't have caused trauma to anyone through my words or actions.  As a bottom feeding blogger, I won't be intimidated by threats to get the State Police involved.  I can't imagine them pursuing the matter at all, but if they did I would be pleased to speak with them.
  4. I didn't publish the two pictures I took.  They prove I was where I say I was, however.
  5. I will continue to delete Mr. Silliman's posts, since they allege I traumatized his family and suggest I may have trespassed, as well as they identify the ages and sexes of his children.  If he wishes to create his own blog, that is his right.

US Government is monitoring groundwater only steps away

Only a few houses away on Wood View Road, there is a monitoring device.  When the phone number on the box was called, it was explained that the device monitors groundwater, but why the box was installed and who requested it could not be released.

Big brother is watching - but exactly what and why?

Water levels down in area creeks

Nestle's engineer testified under oath that he had done "an analysis" that showed the required 90,000 gal/hr rate could be supplied by the dry hydrant at the Chestnut Ridge Lane bridge.  His analysis will never be seen, but was likely flawed.  Here are some pictures taken October 15.  How might they differ if Nestle was sucking the aquifer dry?
Buckwha Creek

Princess Run at intersection of Fiddletown Rd and Kleintop Lane