Problems mount at Millsboro water authority

March 14, 2014
The sign at the entrace to Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority - Mike Jones/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A Millsboro-based water authority where the office staff was fired a week ago following a regulatory investigation faces mounting compliance problems with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority constructed a gaseous chlorine room at the water plant on Monongahela Avenue without a DEP permit, which is a “serious problem,” said John Poister, the department’s spokesman in Pittsburgh.

“Any time you’re dealing with something as dangerous as chlorine, we want to make sure it’s up to standards,” Poister said Friday, one day after the authority announced it would conduct a special financial audit of its business office.

The authority March 7 fired its general manager, Jeff Kovach, and two unidentified office workers after its board learned in January that chemical waste discharge reports weren’t filed with the DEP for 47 consecutive months. Authority Chairman Ted Giovanelli also accused the staff of being uncooperative during the investigation.

“We’re watching this very closely,” Poister said.

Poister said the problems at the authority did not affect the quality of the water provided to its nearly 3,500 customers in portions of Washington and Fayette counties.

He said the gaseous chlorine room has been used for storage and houses the machine that feeds chlorine into the water system.

The authority also did not have a DEP permit to sell bulk water to haulers, he said.

It was not immediately known if the plant had been selling bulk water. Poister said the authority will seek a DEP permit to do so.

These two issues will not result in separate violation notices, but penalties for them will be “rolled into” others, including the one involving the discharge monitoring reports, he said.

“They’re facing some stiff civil penalties,” he said. “While they have begun to cooperate, they do have to do quite a bit of work to get to being in full compliance.”

Giovanelli was out of town Friday. Authority board members at a special meeting Thursday vowed to cooperate with the DEP and work with their engineer to return the operation to compliance.

Kovach could not be reached.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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