MILLSBORO – A substantial reservoir leak needs emergency repair work at the beleaguered Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority, which is facing state fines over unrelated permitting issues that prompted the firing of its office staff this month.
The state Department of Environmental Protection was notified of the leak, which is spewing nearly 75 gallons of water a minute at the reservoir off Sokols Hill Road in East Bethlehem Township, authority Chairman Ted Giovanelli said Monday at a special board meeting at the Millsboro operation.
The leak was discovered during an ice melt about three weeks ago shortly before the board also fired the authority’s office manager and at least two other office workers because monthly plant discharge reports were not filed for 47 consecutive months with the DEP.
The board Monday hired Morgan Excavating of Belle Vernon to repair the leak around an outflow pipe at the reservoir over 10 days at a cost of $54,802.
DEP spokesman John Poister in Pittsburgh said the authority is facing “stiff civil penalties” for failure to submit the discharge monitoring reports involving the handling of water treatment byproducts, constructing a gaseous chlorine room without a permit and selling bulk water without a permit. The DEP has yet to issue the fines, and said the authority’s problems have not affected the quality of the water the plant supplies.
Earlier statements from board members that the authority’s customers will ultimately pay the cost of the fines brought a handful of them to Monday’s meeting to complain about that problem. The authority serves about 3,500 customers in Washington and Fayette counties, mostly in the Mon Valley.
“I don’t think the consumers should be penalized for people not doing their jobs,” local resident Shawn Morosky said.
“It just seems like this authority is out of control,” said Centerville Councilwoman Mary S. Zebley.
“Maybe it’s time to sell it and get someone in there to manage it,” she said.
Giovanelli replied, saying he believed the authority board can manage the operation.
“We’ll never sell this water authority,” added board member Patsy Ricciuti.
The board opted Monday to contract with companies for such services as completing the employee payroll rather than hire new employees to run the office on Monongahela Avenue.
The board also hired the Canonsburg accounting firm Cypher & Cypher to perform an audit of the business office.
Giovanelli said the board also will continue to meet twice a month until the authority’s problems are resolved.