Cold shoulder: The tale of the swales takes new turn for PPL substation in Reinholds

By on November 19, 2014

The West Cocalico Township supervisors’ attitude toward PPL and the liability issues at its new substation on Swamp Bridge Road in Reinholds has gone from chilly to downright icy as winter temperatures set in.

And, this time, the supervisors are not out in the cold alone. Last Wednesday, the state Department of Environmental Protection/Waterways & Wetlands Program, weighed in — in a way that gives PPL little wiggle room to correct stormwater run-off at the site.

A letter dated Nov. 12 from Nathan R. Crawford, permits section chief of DEP program, to PPL did not mince words:

“Based on DEP’s review, it appears that a significant public health and safety hazard now exists in the form of roadway flooding on Swamp Bridge Road from the new and expanded swale that runs parallel to Swamp Bridge Road. The public health and safety hazard appears to be the result of increased tormwater runoff as a reult of PPL’s failure to develop a PCSM Plan that meets the requirements of 25 PA Code, Chapter 102 and Chapter 92a rules and regulations, and the PA Clean Streams Law.

“With the impending winter season, there is the potential for increased roadway icing at this Site. In order to abate this public health and safety hazard as quickly as possible, the DEP requests that PPL submit an interim stormwater management plan that addresses abatement of the roadway flooding to DEP for review and approval within 15 days of this letter.”

Crawford’s letter also instructed PPL to submit a revised PCSM Plan fo the substation area within 60 days of Nov. 12.

The letter drew the unanimous praise and support of the supervisors at their Nov. 18 meeting. The board has been troubled by the substation project for nearly a year. First, PPL did not submit building plans. Then PPL constructed swales or ditches along the roadway out of compliance with state and township standards. All along, PPL has contended it was exempt from township regulations and PennDOT rules due to its utility status.

The supervisors, through a special attorney, have threatened legal action against PPL regarding the swales that are too close to Swamp Bridge Road and present a hazard for motorists as well as the attendant unapproved design and construction have caused for the storm water runoff.ER20140813_CCocRunoff1

“Now they know their dealing with the state, with DEP, not just some piddling township in their eyes,” said Supervisor Terry Scheetz. “After all this hassle we went through, I think we’ll finally get some results.”

Still, the supervisors remain concerned about the runoff and potential icing problems in the coming month — and the liability the township might face.

“It’s not unlikely that, at some point, we might need to shut down that part of the road entirely,” said Tom Showalter, roadmaster.

Scheetz also stressed that it is time for municipalities to contact their legislators to develop laws that will require utilities to adhere to the same construction regulations impacting other entities.

“It won’t help us with this, but it could help others in the future,” he said.

In other business:

Township manager Carolyn Friesema reported a slight shift in the charted path of the Sunoco Mariner East natural gas pipeline through the township. She and Showalter said the shift is primarily in the Middle Creek area near the West Cocalico/Clay Township line.

Two reasons were given for the shift — one regarding pipe congestion in some spots and the other to divert around bog turtles, an endangered species.

Sunoco is working with property owners purchasing 50-foot-right-of-way easements. Friesema assured the supervisors no eminent domain actions are expected.

The company has also been water pressure testing the pipes successfully, Friesema reported.

In other business, the supervisors:

*Approved the 2015 township budget of $2,969,420. There are no tax increases.

*Learned that Friesema and Showalter are actively seeking grants through the Lancaster County Conservation District for improvements of low-volume (less than 500 vehicles per day) roads.

The grants do not cover paving of roads (other than small repairs) but do address storm water runoff and road edges and shoulders.

Friesema said there is a total of $400,000 designated for Lancaster County.

*Conducted a 45-plus minute executive session with solicitor Larry B. Maier regarding terms for the proposed Cocalico regional police force.

After the executive session, the supervisors reconvened, and voted unanimously to craft a new contract to bring to the regional board.

James J. Stoner, the West Cocalico supervisor representative on the regional police board said:

“We were offered a contract and again there’s some confusion with the numbers and some disagreement with the wording.

“Larry will rewrite the contract, bring it back to us to review and look at.”

Stoner said the numbers in the contract given them were “way off” from what was presented earlier. He also noted East Cocalico Supervisor Chair Doug Mackey himself expressed concern over his township’s numbers.

Stoner noted the upcoming Nov. 25 regional police board meeting and the fact that West Cocalico’s agreement is the last one as Adamstown and Denver boroughs and East Cocalico have already pretty much firmed up their ends.

“However, I believe the biggest issue is the unfunded pension plan and what percentage of that each municipality will be willing to accept,” Stoner said.

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