DEP investigating Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority

March 10, 2014
The sign at the entrance to Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority - Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

MILLSBORO – The Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority office staff was fired late last week as the state Department of Environmental Protection investigates possible reporting and permitting violations at the East Bethlehem Township water treatment facility.

The authority’s board terminated the workers as the DEP launched an investigation into why water discharge records and modification permits hadn’t been filed for what DEP spokesman John Poister called a “lengthy period of time.”

Poister said the agency is looking into a number of violations and that it is very likely the municipal authority will be fined for multiple and repeated violations. The DEP’s investigation centers around the lack of discharge monitoring reports filed by workers as required under the federal Clean Water Act, Poister said.

“The filing of those reports to us is extremely important because we obviously can’t be there every day,” Poister said. “We need that information if they have problems with readings or if those readings are off. That’s how we schedule extra inspections.”

Authority board Chairman Ted Giovanelli would not identify the office employees or discuss what led to their termination. He expected to release more information at Thursday night’s authority board meeting.

“We’re trying to comply with what they’re telling us,” Giovanelli said of the DEP’s investigation.

The authority hired a temporary management firm from Pittsburgh to staff the business office this week. As customers walked in to pay bills Monday, a woman, who declined to identify herself, said she and another worker were overseeing the business office and continuing to process paperwork. A state constable sat in the corner to keep watch over the office, because of the terminations, Giovanelli said.

None of the potential record-keeping violations appeared to affect water quality for customers, Poister said. He added that the authority also failed to submit a permit for changes made to one of the storage facilities at the site.

He said it is too early to determine what kind of fine the authority will face for the civil violations.

“For any authority, any penalty hits them in the pocketbook,” Poister said.

The water authority serves 10,000 customers in the Mon Valley.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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