Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sewage work affecting northeastern Fayette County

  A Layman's Report

     A Little History

   It might be hard to judge how Westmoreland County residents would feel about a Fayette County company handling their sewage and water from the confines of Fayette, but what we do know, according to a Department of Health publication of 1909, until fairly recently Fayette County didn't have a Westmoreland Country company in control of these utilities.

   Way back in 1881, October the twenty-seventh to be exact, the smaller water companies of Lemont, Huron, Redstone and Fairchance were merged and consolidated for the transportation and storage of water from the Yough at Broadford through Connellsville to Mt. Pleasant. This was chartered as the Youghiogheny Water Company. The Trotter Water Co. also dealt more with the Monongahela water supply. Now the center of business was where? Can you guess this one? Scottdale, in East Huntingdon of Westmoreland County. The main pumping station was at Dunbar on the west bank of the Yough opposite South Connellsville. This is only an excerpt; but before that, the  Connellsviile Water Company was incorporated in 1883 and built by William S. Kuhn. It was later controlled by the American Water Works and Electric Co. Breakneck Reservoir was one of two in use.

    One obvious feature should be noticeable, and that is companies like this have certainly branched out and expanded considerably since the old days all over the townships of different counties. That is pretty much the norm. Monopolizing through growth and acquisition into many fields concurrently.The purpose of this blog is history, yes, but the discussion must include these salient issues to make sense occasionally. I don't enjoy going this route, folks. The debate is a standard formula to try to bring the matter into a clearer focus.

      Modern Times

   Much of the 400 miles of pipeline in the region of Upper Tyrone was 100 years old. A surprising figure. What should be a staggering fact is that those in charge allowed the problem to get to this critical junction. However this happened, it looks to be a classic case of neglect, pure and simple. Remember, I've made the statement before that I've lived in both counties, so that isn't really an issue. In a nutshell, the MAWC (Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County), out of Greensburg controls quite an extent of the waterlines and supply of Fayette County. According to an article of April 12, 2017 in the TRIB Live, the Authority, (somebody must love that word), was established in the 1940's only for Westmoreland County residents. That fact is obvious by the name alone. They now 'serve' municipalities in Armstrong, Westmoreland, Fayette, Allegheny and Indiana counties. An extensive branching out in the fashion of a monopoly. I say that as MAWC is buying them up all over. CONSOLIDATION is a word more often used in these parts whether it is more suited, or not. Who is the highest bidder? Well, the example provided goes on on a much larger scale in other ways across this great nation of ours.

    MAWC claims these acquisitions allow them to operate more efficiently. Here's just one letter to the Tribune Review Editorial if anyone cares to read it. Christopher Kerr, the manager, is said to also be a part owner of Utilishield, the insurance company used by MAWC for its waterlines. I don't know about efficiency but convenience is another word. Spin is yet another. Mr. Kerr refers to parochialism as a problem in the Ohio River valley. There you go. Down south, the situation also involves the North Fayette County Municipal Authority board chaired by Philip Mahoney. A study was being undertaken by Senate Engineering Co. on purchasing water from MAWC or spending 35 million bucks on a new plant.

    PLEASE become more informed. Voice your cause in the comment section and elsewhere. MAWC can be reached on 124 Park and Pool Rd., near New Stsnton and Youngwood. Their phone no. is 724-755-5800, or toll free at 1-800-442-6829. Email is Good luck.

   More to the point, we are particularly concerned with one Upper Tyrone Sewage Project. How all this came about and exactly what legal ramifications there are is not necessarily pertinent to this post. The story could go on and on. As it is understood, the company is in the process of using sub-contractors for fixing and replacing service line connections with of the old pipes along roads, sidewalks, and premises that were apparently left to rust and neglect and need an upgrade anyway for way too long. A lot of wanton damage seems to be regularly left behind them. This could be said of a lot of our infrastructure.

   This post had to be updated relative to some of the municipal personnel, there was sent out a proper explanatory packet which helped elucidate on the broader picture of the whole process.

    I was informed that much of the damaging conditions described below will be fixed up better within somewhere between August and ... an unknown date. Also information on the Grinder Pump connections, pipe bedding details and service connections were then provided. Septic tank by-passes, the different boring and capping details are in there. This unexpected graphic material was appreciated, even though it was sent at a late hour. Now the letter claims it is 70% completed and the pump stations are 82% completed. The main areas of operation in are Everson Valley, *(which I could barely get in and out of on a recent trip to the municipal building)*, Kingview, McClure, and Mount Pleasant Road. I don't have info on what is being done in nearby townships. The pumping stations, which are costing a small fortune, are Broadford Road, Kingview, off of Dexter Road, Everson St., McCLure, and probably the main one is in Broadford, or so I was told. The links are on the township web page where the tap agreement is located.


No this was not an alley, but a back road near Pigeon Hill.


Large machinery going to work on replacing sewage pipes

Dirt mound left. Most photos are from East Scottdale and Everson
Road damage with gravel fill.

    Under approval of the chairman of the board, Randy Roadman, last year saw an increase of twenty five percent in sewage bills rates, and yet they also passed that they will charge a hefty sum on the side as well-to some. I read where they were also raised in 2013. Currently this is at $36.00 a billing, and from $1,800 - $2,300 in total extra fees. A piddling sum one would suppose even in a depressed area. By the way, hasn't this type of thing been going on with the electric companies as well? MAWC is apparently not under the supervision of the Public Utility Commission. I'm not informed about NFMA one way, or the other. Ignoring an online petition, Westmoreland County Commissioner, Gina Cerilli,basically says she has no problem with the rate hikes. OK...The word is out that there are suppose to be further increases in 2018 and for sewage bills in Fayette as well. Whoa! MAWC calls this tack, "reinvesting in the infrastructure." A "prudent" thing. Uh-huh. They may not like what some of us might call it. The voice of the people appears to often be muffled, if not muzzled. A sad notice on communities of the state of our welfare mixed with a lack of consideration of a very depressed area.

    Beyond all the above, the North Fayette Municipal Authority located in Dunbar Township at  P. O. Box 368, 1634 University Drive, is claimed by the Upper Tyrone municipal authorities as the main culprit behind this portion of our article. They may even be the main controlling unit as for the sewage of Fayette, it would seem. Phone number for them is 724-626-1211, listed on one website as a Connellsville number. The website doesn't offer much information on this subject at all. For what it's worth, an old explanation of the options and the possible connection with Mawc are in this newspaper article. Apparently, they would either buy the 58 acre property from the Coastal Liumber Company for nearly $29,000,000 or use Mawc for the treated water. In the end, it appears we customers will be paying higher sewage AND water bills.

    In other news, why doesn't the website for the Upper Tyrone Municipal Authority have any updates on any meetings held on the 4th Monday of the month or details of the supervisor meetings held on the fourth Tuesday of the month for the last 9 months? Good question. It is worrying that I haven't received a decent answer when posing it, except something like, that with all that has been going on it's no wonder that is the case... uh-huh. Ah, politics! That's not very satisfactory. There are also those that have been informed that, ultimately, the orders or advice for upgrades, I'm not sure which, come from the DEP. There vehicles have been seen around so that qualifies as being spot on too.  I do know that other departments and organizations are involved. This is only added as a basic rundown and is not really the main point of the post. The whole picture can become overly complicated. Regardless of that situation and the regulations which must make customers flinch, if not on the offensive, at least on the defensive, they are treading near to a region where history is in danger and clearly in need of serious funds for archeological research, especially in key places. (Let's see these fine establishments raise a bunch of money for that urgent purpose). No one will be holding their breath.

   One of these realms of multi-layered need of preservation does indeed lie in small northeastern Upper Tyrone Township. That is not to deny the need in surrounding parts, but they do have associations that cater on a better level. For those that come here frequently, it is no secret that there are fairly recent findings, iwhich encapsulate various types of research and documentation of the meeting of branches of the Turkey Foot and Braddock Roads in Fayette County and parts of Westmoreland County; such circumstances should up the ante at hand. Also, in the post for Westmoreland County, more concerned with East Huntingdon Township, is, almost by accident, where most of these significant links are located on this site to retrace much of this archaic material. At this stage it is doubtful anything can or will be done to alleviate the threat toward a loss to our heritage, if indeed there is a serious threat. That would be a sad state of affairs. The PENN Dot McClure project is not finished, so the eventual extent of the damage can only be a rough estimate at this time. The jury may still be out on that issue. Not that planning couldn't of foreseen these problems and rectified them, or some solution could not be undertaken. This is still a distant possibility, though unlikely. It's partly the idea that history is not always considered when these projects are discussed in the board rooms. This is an irksome truth that sometimes it is the least of the priorities, on the bottom of the list.

Roack an mound left behind.


   The circumstances are ironic in a real sense as the past has seen the sealing of old mines and a general neglect of the old coke ovens. Progress must continue, yet it pushes the treasures of old industrial history aside, even as that very industry polluted our landscape with mine drainage and helped to bury the former heritage even deeper. Obviously with the digging up around the old roads in Upper Tyrone, some of which at this moment make them almost unusable, just patched up with gravel, especially if they are not even bothering to checking this out with archeological experts, that is surely the case. Needs of that stature could be further addressed in many communities.


Alley work.


     Of course, this is not to claim the upgrades do not need to be done or the company does not hire contractors capable of doing a proper job. The wisdom in commencing the operations in the middle of winter is, nevertheless, up for debate, as are other factors as well.  The stark truth contains the hard kernel that some disruption must take place, even at our  own expense. To a point. As for the Municipal Authority of Westmorleand County, if you take the time to read the basic regulations, they do make this available in a fifty-three page PDF file. Although this is only pertinent to water lines and not sewage, an interesting aside concerns a statement on page 9, No. 37, "The Authority will install and maintain at its own cost all service line connections ...and maintain all service lines from the mains to and including the curb stop and service box which will be placed inside the curb or property line", etc. Apparently this is difficult enough to comprehend and somehow does not include this upgrading work taking place now which supposedly includes some water lines. Don't ask me, ask them!Sifting through the descriptions of the various services and rules is probably not a task for the average consumer to grasp, whatever organization we are examining. Maybe they can make a decent explanation of the whole mess. Maybe somewhere they have and I just haven't seen it.

     In a cursory reading, statements to this effect appear to put the cost on the company, hardly the consumer. That may depend on what is being discussed at a given time and place and under what conditions. Maybe some of the following paragraphs allow for some kind of adjustment of the previous condition. All I can say is, I am not a lawyer and in reading at the website, you might need to be one to comprehend all the ifs, ands, buts and round about language referred to. Being this is more connected to water issues, the argument supplied above may be immaterial and not specifically applicable. So be it. Yet how is it that distribution piping and treatment plants could be a new charge for consumers to bear, if that is the case? One wonders exactly how this comes about.

      Sorry about the quality of many of the pipe work photos. Some were taken on rainy days.                            

Sewage work near Duraloy


Large pipes to install at Dexter Road.

    Is this really overreacting on my part? To arrive closer to the heart of the matter from my own simple perspective, I share the guilt. Since writing about the McClure road construction and being later told it is in early stages, so not to worry. That's another thing. Here, I hadn't realized what was going on, not reacting swiftly enough, and my influence is not all that influential to do what newspapers and local governments, historical societies and PA archeological establishments can. We have tried to make some effort to pass on these concerns.

    I'm not too different than anyone else. I find myself dealing with new medical insurance issues, transportation woes and unusual job decisions of some magnitude and the usual projects in my personal life lately. Evidently there is not the proper oversight needed to tackle and control a situation we find ourselves in agreed upon by county commissioners. For the sake of completeness, the township officials in Upper Tyrone on the fairly new Sewage Authority there are:  Jess Keller, Paul Kendi, Barry Whoric, and Stanely Borek. That's what I have read, anyway. Some of the technicalities are clearly beyond the scope of this article and I am not expert enough to attempt such an explanation to any real satisfaction. That must be addressed by contacting the governing bodies involved.

Black tarps during last winter.


   Hopefully this lone voice is not the only one making complaints, perhaps there are others. Please inform me if you know of anybody else that is on the periphery. I would be happy to have the knowledge and congratulate those persons or entities standing up to be counted.

   One of the key points of this post concerns not just the noise pollution, the machinery up and down the village roads clanking along, the legacy of layers of dust, the mounds of dirt left in people's yards, sometimes with trees and bushes destroyed. That may some day be rectified. But the sad lack of oversight considering the regions vaunted historical significance is most upsetting. One would assume that along the way this constant digging and drilling has or will come upon structure, ancient items, and occasionally, bones that are not only being misplaced and tampered with, probably ignored as so much junk in the way of...PROGRESS. It could be people were better off in the days of outhouses. Well, then again, maybe not!

    Historical Research in the Process of Possible Destruction

    The danger appeared to be at the brink of calamity as they considered work very near to the old structure on the south bank of Jacobs Creek in Fayette County. That is a personal pet project of mine.  If this was indeed the case, it would be appalling. I have recently noted that they appear to be backing away from significant changes in that narrow locality and one can only hope it remains this way. It can be difficult to ask a direct question and be sure of receiving a straight answer. Maybe that depends on who is asking what organization the question at what time.

   An urgent call needs to be made to citizens and caring residents of these communities to inspect the situation for themselves. Nothing less will do to bring a stop to wanton damage of great and meaningful historical implications. If no one gets involved all I can say at this time is: you have been fairly warned. The Turkey Foot Road beds and the routes of the Braddock Road nearby are perhaps the most noticeable features of our old landscape for attention. They are far from the only ones; they appear to be the most significant. Much of this has been previously covered on other posts with handy links above.

A case of bumpy road conditions. How long until fixed?

..Unfortunately, except for a few conversations and emails, one with state archeologist, Chris Espenshade on the Penn Dot future road construction, gaining an appreciable interest of the proper authorities has not been achieved in any serious fashion. And that is actually an understatement, folks. Personally, there simply hasn't been much success in the aims and needs of having this region examined archeologically, however briefly, let alone minutely on a professional level. I am not alone in this. Cassandra Vivien, author and holder of many positions, particularly in Mount Pleasant, is one person that comes to mind who has voiced frustration in the recent past.

   To sum up, we are seeing a loss of our heritage under the bulldozer and backhoe. To the auspices of those in power  caution is urged. Instead, this looks like a complicit agreement to overrun the land to a certain extent, regardless of the consequences and circumstances in which it is being performed, as long as the job gets done. I want to show some extra empathy with those visitors grueling it out to the end of the article.

  Many of you are watching and observing, sometimes complaining, as taking place in these digs and improvements is a general disregard for historical implications in these parts. Check the authorities that be and voice your important grievances. The seriousness of the problem demands concern. Personally, I predict the historical worries to eventually be ignored, and worse, forgotten. Not to be too gloomy, but it isn't a case lined with much optimism. Experience echoes the reality. The main decisions to get this project to a conclusion appears to be all that really matter toward the price of our heritage. OH, and the prices of sewage and water continue to climb. I've heard various figures. There is a missing formula in their equation: the rights of the people to be represented better than we are at this time in our very own backyards.

    So, our past will be dug up and then covered back and partly patched back up with the approval of the county and township councilors. Those who are there to support us and look after the best interests need to take a second look at things. Granted, times have certainly changed. Consequently, things are very different in every avenue of our fast paced lives. And as most of us well know, not always to our liking or immediate benefit.



    If any of this material is technically incorrect, the blog has tried to get most of it straight and I think it goes without saying, this is hardly the easiest subject to convey to the public in meticulous detail by an outside source. I apologize to anybody if there are any inaccuracies. Again, I have attempted to get it across as best as was able to.

  Hopefully, the next upload will focus on a subject more upbeat and to the taste of all the history buffs out there.

    A Personal Word

   I'm really glad many of you have shown enjoyment and interest with the last post uploaded. There is also a nice surprise in receiving contact and page views for old posts, some with the warts of inexperience and spontaneity openly exposed, competing for attention with the dates, facts. and figures

   Thank you for continuing to offer a word of encouragement and occasionally passing on your own heartfelt stories and knowledge from the places where you live!

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