Harmar officials say PennDOT road waste site may be illegal
Harmar officials are preparing to challenge PennDOT regarding its operation along the Route 28 expressway to deal with discarded pavement.
Township Supervisor Bob Seibert said the state agency basically has a “rock-crushing operation” at the Harmar ramps intersecting with Route 28 (Exit 11) that might be violating township ordinances.
Also, Seibert said PennDOT’s activities with recycling and disposing of old pavement has resulted in a change in the topography of the area near the southbound on-ramp of Route 28. He said the area was once more of a valley and now much of that has been filled in with discarded concrete and aggregate that has spoiled what Seibert said was a small wetlands.
“We have a grading ordinance,” Seibert said. “PennDOT has never applied for a grading permit.”
He said there is also a solid waste ordinance which requires a permit to be issued and that was never done.
“It is an insult to the residents of Harmar Township for them to continue operating as an unpermitted dump,” Seibert said. “It’s an eyesore, and they certainly wouldn’t do it in Fox Chapel.”
He said the situation also creates a double standard.
“If we make the average person get a permit, why shouldn’t we make PennDOT to do the same?” Seibert said.
PennDOT District 11 spokesman Steve Cowan said, to his knowledge, no one from Harmar has reached out to PennDOT, but he would like to set up a meeting to discuss any concerns they may have.
Cowan said the location where PennDOT is working in Harmar is a PennDOT right of way.
“We are not aware of any municipal permits that would be necessary,” Cowan said. “We fully complied with all environmental regulations.”
Cowan said the location is used to store and crush concrete, which is often used to fix landslides. He said these types of operations are located across Allegheny County.
“We have 75 active landslides in our district right now,” he said.
Township Engineer Matt Pitsch said the area in question lies between Route 28, the southbound on-ramp to the highway and Route 910. He said it encompasses about 10 acres.
Seibert said initially PennDOT said it was using the area to store asphalt pavement millings.
“They’ve expanded it and turned into a rock-crushing operation,” Seibert said, adding that the state agency has buried concrete slabs there, which it should not be doing.
Pitsch indicated that township ordinances may not be the only regulations PennDOT is violating.
He said Advanced Storage, which is building a storage facility along Route 910, was issued a cease-and-desist order from the Allegheny County Conservation District for its construction activities. The reason, he said, is that the company had not received its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.
The state requires a permit for construction and industrial activities as it relates to possible pollution from stormwater runoff.
Pitsch said, as far as he knows, PennDOT has not applied for an NPDES permit for the Route 28 operation.
Seibert asked Solicitor Chuck Means whether the township can take legal action.
“There’s going to be legal issues of pre-emption if it (the land) is a PennDOT right of way,” Means said.
But Means said the township needs to approach it in methodical fashion, first finding out what ordinances PennDOT might be violating.
“I think we need to have a meeting with them and let them know that we are seriously going to pursue it,” Seibert said.
He requested, and the rest of the supervisors agreed, to pursue it by having Township Manager Donna Piper research what ordinances may be in violation. At the same time, Pitsch will contact the Allegheny County Conservation District in regard to the NPDES permit matter.
“They are not exempt from Harmar Township ordinances,” Siebert said. “We need to take some action here.”
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.