John K. Manna
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
State Sen. Elder Vogel wants answers regarding the dumping of thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater in the Mahoning River.
Vogel, who represents parts of Beaver and Lawrence counties, and Sen. Lisa Baker have written to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, asking for an immediate review of a communications breakdown following the dumping that occurred from November through Jan. 31.
They are seeking answers to why local officials and the public were not informed about the possible threat to drinking water downstream from the dumping that occurred in Ohio.
“While a long list of agencies, including PEMA and the Pennsylvania state police were notified of the illegal dumping in Ohio near the Pennsylvania border, no one took the all-important step of sharing this critical information with other relevant agencies,” the senators wrote to PEMA director Glenn Cannon.
Vogel and Baker, who is chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said neither the state Department of Environmental Protection nor two Beaver County drinking water suppliers downstream were notified of the dumping, which potentially put more than 17,000 public water customers at risk.
The Mahoning River enters Lawrence County and joins the Shenango River south of New Castle to form the Beaver River.
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania American Water Co. said its customers in Lawrence County were not affected. New Castle gets its drinking water from the Shenango River upstream and Ellwood City receives its supply from Slippery Rock Creek.
Vogel said it “could have been a very dangerous situation and those in charge of supplying our residents with clean water need to be among the first contacted.”
In their letter, both senators said there was much “finger-pointing,” with Pennsylvania agencies blaming the National Response Center “for its poorly detailed notification.”
“We find this reaction troubling, as no responsibility was taken and no corrective plan of action was put into place for future incidents.”
They said they want to know the proper protocol in such instances and what needs to change in the notification process.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, federal prosecutors last week indicted Hardrock Excavating LLC, its owner and a worker accusing them of dumping brine and oil-based drilling mud in a Mahoning River tributary from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31.