LAWRENCEVILLE, Pa. (WETM) – The problems surrounding Lawrenceville Borough’s operation of its wastewater treatment plant have officially escalated to the federal government, with the Environmental Protection Agency delivering a request for information to the Borough council president.
The EPA sent Council President Gordon Chilson a letter requiring information, documents, reports, and explanations surrounding the operation and history of the Borough’s wastewater treatment plant. Chilson has until Nov. 23 to provide the requested information or face enforcement action or criminal penalties, according to the letter. The letter, while addressed to Chilson, was sent to 55 email addresses, including people from the Borough, Tioga County, and PA governments.
The letter lists 36 specific requests that range from information on sludge discharge into the Tioga River, plant operators, years of logs and chemical reports, communication with the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, lists of known deficiencies, and explanations of how money from residents and grants is being used for the plant.
When asked for comment during a phone call, Chilson claimed he wasn’t aware of the 8-page document from the EPA. Chilson has made similar claims in the past when asked about other government or court filings.
The letter explained that Chilson may request a “business confidentiality claim” for some or all of the questions. This claim, under the Code of Federal Regulations, means the information given to the EPA can’t fully be disclosed to the public. If no confidentiality claim is made, the EPA may release the information to the public “without further notice”, the letter said.
However, the letter clarified that Chilson is not allowed to withhold any information from the EPA on the grounds of a confidentiality claim.
Among the requests for information from Chilson are:
- Is the Borough still getting reports of dirty water as it was in Dec. 2021?
- Provide information on sludge being discharged into the Tioga River from Dec. 10, 2021 – Jan. 5, 2022.
- Provide information on residents’ $10/month maintenance fee, how much money has been raised, and how it’s been used.
- Detail how a $400,000 water and sewer grant has been used.
- Provided estimated costs of maintaining the drinking water and wastewater systems each year.
- What type of public notification system does Lawrenceville have in place, and how is it deployed?
- Who is the current licensed operator at the wastewater treatment plant?
- Provide copies of the plant’s and pump stations’ operation logs for the past three years.
- Provide a list of all known deficiencies at the plant, the date they were discovered, and efforts taken to correct them.
- Provide documentation of communication with the DEP (emails, phone calls, reports, and violation notices) since January 2020.
- How often are hydrants flushed?
- Provide a list of all grants from the last five years for the Borough’s water facilities and the intended use of those grants.
The letter was sent the same day that the Pa. DEP filed a Petition for Contempt against the Borough.
In late October, the DEP said that Lawrenceville had obtained a certified water operator after several months without one and patched a hole in its water tank that had been plugged with a stick.
Over the summer, residents in Lawrenceville frustrated with the ongoing water plant problems reported to 18 News that at certain times during the week, their tap water still runs brown. Several said they exclusively buy bottled water for their families and pets.
The Borough has received multiple notices of violation from the DEP since 2019, culminating in a court petition over the summer and $9,500 in fines so far this year to be paid with taxpayer money.