A statewide plan that is being developed for the clean-up of illegal dumping sites is being watched with interest by local government officials. Final results of a multi-year study were recently released. Investigators located 56 illegal dumps in Potter County spread out over 22 townships and boroughs. They contain about 78 tons of trash, ranging from tires and furniture to electronics, vehicle parts and household waste. Many of the dump sites were determined to be a pollution threat due to their close proximity to waterways. They’re also breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other insects, as well as vermin. Illegal dumping mostly occurs in rural areas where few persons live and roads are less traveled. Once an illegal dumping site is established, it tends to attract other dumpers.
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, the non-profit group that conducted the state-supported study, concluded that there were likely other dumpsites that were not logged. The report did not include sites where landowners have been doing the dumping themselves. “The survey is a tool for development of solid waste and recycling programs,” KPB president Shannon Reiter said. “It can be used to support funding for public education and cleanup. We are now ready to build a strategic plan to significantly reduce illegal dumping in Pennsylvania.” KPB has hired a consultant to determine costs for cleanup and abatement and to develop recommendations for state, county and local governments and community stakeholders. Statewide, KPB identified about 6,500 illegal dumpsites containing an estimated 18,500 tons of trash.
Four of Potter County’s illegal dumps were found in Sharon Township, accounting for more than 35 tons of trash. Roulette and Eulalia townships had five sites each; Bingham and Hector, four apiece. Copies of the surveys are available at keeppabeautiful.org. For more information, or to report a dumpsite not shown in the report, visit that site or call 1-877-772-3673.
An open house will be held starting at 10 am Thursday, Dec. 12, at the new Coudersport Senior Center. The facility has moved from its South Main Street location to the Coudersport Volunteer Fire Department Training Center, across from the Coudersport Firehall on Rt. 6 West (Port Allegany Road). Potter County Area Agency on Aging will host Thursday’s open house. Refreshments will be served.
Directors believe the new location will boost participation, with easier access, more room for activities and additional parking. The open house is an opportunity for local seniors who have considered joining the center to learn more about it. Senior center hours are 8 am to 2 pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. For more information, call Potter County Human Services at 544-7315.
Don’t be fooled by what seems like a slowdown in shale gas development in the region. That’s the advice of Patrick Henderson. The state’s top energy official says the natural gas industry has changed in recent years, but remains strong. Henderson met with the Natural Gas Task Force for the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania in Hershey. Among task force members are local commissioners Paul Heimel, Potter County; Erick Coolidge, Tioga County; and Pete Smeltz, Clinton County.
Drilling began on 1,900 wells in 2011, dropped to 1,365 in 2012, and will probably come in at about 1,250 when the final 2013 figures are released. But it’s misleading to draw conclusions from those statistics alone, Henderson cautioned. “We’re seeing a lot of capital spent in putting these wells into production,” he explained. “Right now, Pennsylvania has approximately 3,000 wells that are drilled and still need to be connected to pipelines.”
Henderson said there was a frenetic pace of well-drilling early on, because leases stipulated that wells had to be drilled to hold the land. Now, the emphasis has shifted toward building the infrastructure to get gas out to market. With gas just recently edging above $4.00 per thousand cubic feet compared to prices of more than $10.00 in 2008, companies are holding off, he noted. Underground gas storage fields are full, due in part to a mild winter of 2012-13. And while it’s true that there has been a shift toward oil in terms how drilling rigs are being deployed nationally, Henderson says of those that are still drilling gas, the proportion located in Pennsylvania (15.5 percent) is higher now than in 2011. He also shared highlights of a report his office delivered to the state legislature on pipelines. Recommendations include:
- allowing public road rights-of-way to be used by for-profit companies;
- requiring line operators to register with the Pennsylvania One-Call database for underground digging;
- development of maps showing where all pipelines are located;
- a system to determine the order in which pipeline permit applications are reviewed;
- further debate on whether Class 1 pipelines (10 or fewer households per mile) should be subject to greater state safety and structural integrity inspection.
Potter County’s important role in the development of the Pennsylvania Dirt and Gravel Road Maintenance Program was recalled during recent debate in Harrisburg over the far-reaching Transportation Bill that passed in the legislature by a narrow vote and has been signed into law. Some $150 million was approved to support maintenance of the state’s dirt and gravel roads, many of which are located in Potter and surrounding counties, over the next five years.
For more than 15 years, the program has kept thousands of tons of sediment from entering prime trout streams. Sediment is a significant stream pollution problem. It fills in stream channels — smothering trout eggs and destroying aquatic insect habitat. Back in 1990, members of the God’s Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited hosted a meeting at Big Moore’s Run Lodge in Potter County to draw attention to the worsening erosion and sedimentation problem. Less than three years later, PennDOT helped to organize a volunteer task force to devise road maintenance standards and techniques for correcting the excessive sedimentation problems. Penn State graduate students produced a map of every dirt and gravel road near an exceptional value or high quality cold water fishery. Trained volunteers from local TU chapters, including Potter County, assisted by surveying their local streams.
By 1996, more than 700 “sediment hotspots” were identified statewide. Finally, in April 1997, the legislature passed Act 3, providing $5 million annually to improve and maintain dirt and gravel roads: $1 million to the Pa. Bureau of Forestry and $4 million to be distributed by local conservation districts. Since that time, more than 2,300 projects have been funded. An estimated 7,500 new drainage and stream pipes have been installed. Close to 600 miles of driving service aggregate has been placed, and upwards of 200 miles of road ditch and banks have been stabilized.
Collection bins have been placed in the lobbies at the Gunzburger Building and the Courthouse in Coudersport for a holiday charity drive being conducted by the Potter County employees’ union. Non-perishable foods can be placed in the bins up until the week before Christmas, when items will be delivered to the local food bank to be distributed to the needy. Donors are asked to check expiration dates on the merchandise to assure that no outdated items are included.
The committee is also collecting needed items for Teachers Pet Rescue, an animal shelter serving much of Potter County. Items that are needed include: leashes, canned dog food, stainless feeding dishes (no plastic), paper towels, bleach, dog biscuits, dish soap and disinfectant wipes. County employees are also designating proceeds from this year’s Christmas party to benefit Christmas House and the Potter County Human Services home-delivered meals program.
More improvements have been made to the county website, aimed at making services more convenient for the public while improving efficiencies with the county government. Most recently, minutes from business meetings of the Potter County Board of Commissioners can be found on the site, available at pottercountypa.net (under Departments tab, click on Commissioners). The site also now contains quick links to current and all past editions of two local newsletters, Shale Gas Roundup and Pottter County Veterans News.
Links to information on benefits and other services for military veterans have also recently been added (click on Veterans Affairs). Eligible organizations can now download applications for Small Games of Chance licenses from the site (click on Treasurer’s Office). The site features conveniences for the public to purchase dog licenses, apply for homestead tax exemptions, obtain phone numbers and email addresses for county and municipal officials, tap into the Landex system for remote access to deeds and land records, obtain voter information, and more. There’s also current and archived information on the county government and Potter County in general, as well as some interactive features.
Internet users are encouraged to bookmark the site on their home computers. The new site complements a separate web-based service for information from or about the county government, Potter County Today. Together, the two information services deliver both timely information, updated on a daily basis, as well as connections to many other sources.