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PennDOT Shohola Stockpile site reveals years of buried waste

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network received a hotline pollution report in October 2007 concerning a PennDOT stockpile site (Stockpile #6) Route 6, Shohola Township, Pike County, PA. The 9.65 acre site was leased by PennDOT for many years -3 to 4 decades- from the PA State Game Commission, who owns thousands of adjacent acres. The site was used to stockpile materials and equipment for use on the roadways. A report was received by a journalist that drums were buried there containing pollutants, which he reported to authorities and in his newspaper column. The report led to an agreement by PennDOT to “clean up” the site, which had been shut down with expiration of the lease. PADEP, the Pike County Conservation District, the PA Game Commission, and others were brought in to review the situation after PennDOT apparently began earthmoving at the site without approved plans or a permit. Since the area to be disturbed was less than 5 acres (about .1 acres under) PADEP did not require a NPDES permit. It was decided by the agencies that the only approval needed was for an erosion and sediment control plan from the Pike County Conservation District.

Photo of buried drums containing pollutants

The Pike County Conservation District (PCCD) oversaw the implementation of the plan they approved and quickly problems surfaced at the site. It became apparent that wetlands had been filled illegally in the past; the fill has to be removed and PCCD will direct mitigation of the wetlands that were destroyed (some fill was already removed but a large area of wetlands is still buried in fill). Soil samples were few and far between, unknown materials were being stacked up, pollutants were escaping on to the ground, which flows to the Shohola Creek, classified as a High Quality stream. DRN representatives visited the site on 10.29.07 and photographed piles of excavated drums, strong smelling contaminated soil, stockpiled waste, stained soil surfaces, and the ongoing excavations.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed an environmental complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on 10.24.07. In response, EPA representatives inspected the site on 11.01.07 and are now monitoring events at the site. DRN does not have confidence in PennDOT’s present work plan or the ongoing operations, especially considering the possibility that significant pollution has resulted from the illegal dumping and burying of waste on this PennDOT site for so many years. DRN is advocating for EPA oversight of all activities at the site, a reconsideration of how clean up is to proceed, more comprehensive soil and surface water sampling, groundwater sampling, and accurate characterization of what is being found at the site.

The Shohola area where the PennDOT stockpile is located is a rural forested region with lakes, high quality streams, and lots of outdoor activities, about 14 miles from the Wild and Scenic Delaware River. The desecration of these public Game Lands by PennDOT is shameful. It is shocking to think that this natural amenity may end up being labeled a superfund site, ruined by the hands of a taxpayer-supported government agency. Until that time, the clean up begs for EPA, who can bring professional and experienced expertise to this environmental disaster.