July 1, 2008

‘Geo-Tech’ Testing Set to Start in Palo Alto to Help Resolve Mine Water Issue

By Ben Wolfgang, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.

Jul. 1--PALO ALTO -- Savory Street residents will have to live with orange mine water for at least another four months.

"It's going to take awhile," Ron Ry-czak, civil engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, said in a phone interview Monday. "We're still not really sure where the water is coming from."

Ryczak said Gannett Fleming, a Clearfield engineering firm, will begin "geo-technical tests" within the next several weeks and prepare a report by Oct. 1, outlining the company's plan to fix a recurring mine water problem that has plagued James Somers Jr., 302 W. Savory St., for years.

Gannett Fleming will arrive next week to begin preliminary work, but Ryczak said physical work is months away. In fact, Ryczak said after Gannett Fleming prepares its report, the job will have to be put out for bid and a different company will actually fix the problem.

"I don't see it getting done this year," Somers said in a phone interview Monday. "This is our government. I don't think they (DEP) have a clue."

DEP officials believe the water comes from an underground mine beneath the home and had tried to fix the problem twice -- first in the 1970s and again in 2005.

Somers said a poor repair job in 2005 made the problem even worse. He said he's removed a "for sale" sign from his house -- which had been posted for at least two years -- because no one is interested in the house.

Neighbors have also said they're interested in selling their homes, but no one seems interested.

Gannett Fleming Spokesman Mike Auman said Monday the company received a "notice to proceed" last week.

U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-17, and state Rep. Neal Goodman, D-123, visited Somers' home last month. Holden referred to the orange-stained 300 block of Savory Street as "no way to live."

"Every day is an inconvenience to the people in this neighborhood," Goodman said in a phone interview Monday, adding DEP officials have told him Gannett Fleming will hold a press conference when company representatives arrive in town next week.

Somers said the attempted 2005 repair job has ruined his garage and basement, forcing him to move several classic cars to his father's house.

"For me, it's (work on cars) what I do," Somers said. "I can't even walk around in the basement."

DEP has jurisdiction over the mine itself, but last month Palo Alto Borough officials built a trough to keep the orange water -- which gets its color from iron in the earth -- on one side of the street.

DEP officials have also said they do not plan to reimburse the borough for costs related to the problem.


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