Cecil Township’s public hearing Tuesday regarding the Worstell impoundment addressed the content of what was discussed at two separate private meetings with the state Department of Environmental Protection and Range Resources. However, residents were told to steer conversation away from the format of those meetings.
“I’ve been told some people were here to blast us, chastise us, criticize us for attending a private meeting with Range,” said township Chairman Tom Casciola. “That’s going to have to occur later in the evening. We need to address the residents here who live near the Worstell impoundment.”
Casciola said the main purpose of the hearing, which was held before the township’s board of supervisors meeting, was for residents to guide the township in its dealings with Range Resources, which operates the impoundment on Swihart Road. He asked residents if the township should try to negotiate with Range to improve the impoundment, or to push for its elimination altogether.
Casciola, along with supervisors Elizabeth Cowden and Frank Ludwin, met privately with Range Resources officials Aug. 6 to discuss the impoundment. Several days later, township supervisors attended a private conference at the DEP’s headquarters to discuss the same topic.
“To be frank, we didn’t learn a lot at either of those meetings, but what we did learn and put together, it was more informative,” Casciola said.
He said Range representatives indicated in the meeting that they plan to continue operating the impoundment and that they can control the number of trucks that travel along Swihart Road, which has been a concern for some residents who live near the impoundment.
Township manager Don Gennuso said Range officials were invited to the public hearing but were unable to attend. Residents have expressed concerns in the past regarding the potential for water and air contamination, as well as the heavy amount of truck traffic. Comments made by about a dozen residents at Tuesday’s hearing fell along these same lines, and a majority of those who spoke out called for the impoundment to either be shut down or monitored more closely.
Rose Churray said she is concerned about the deterioration of Swihart Road caused by truck traffic to the impoundment. She said it is the township’s duty to push for an end to impoundment operations because Range and the DEP cannot be trusted to serve residents’ best interests.
“This impoundment is unconditional. It is open to any trucks from anywhere carrying anything for as long as they want,” Churray said. “You are the ones that have any little bit of power to stop it. You gotta shut this place down.”
Joe Kirby, who also lives near the impoundment, said he has no concerns and denied that truck traffic is ruining the road.
“You can run a Baltimore and Ohio full train down that road every six hours, and it’s never, ever going to affect that road,” Kirby said. “What they’re doing isn’t really bothering me, and nobody gets affected more than I do.”
Several residents called for either Range Resources or the township to fund groundwater and air quality tests for properties near the impoundment. Tom and Kathy Bullions, of Swihart Road, said they have seen smoke rising from the water they collect in rain buckets. The couple, in addition to another resident, Kathleen Konechney, said the amount of dead birds or birds without feathers in that area is abnormal.
Casciola said that because of the “hands-off” nature of Act 13 when it comes to a municipality’s jurisdiction, the township does not have much power to administer environmental tests because that is within the DEP’s domain.
State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, said he was disappointed that Range representatives did not attend, but he thought the hearing was productive.
“It was a great turnout,” White said. “I think it’s good to get more people talking and involved, and we’re going to keep moving.”