Thank you to the 282 of you that signed our petition in support of addressing the pooling water in front of North Jefferson Elementary School! This is an awesome response in only 5 days!
I’d like to give you an update on this action and let you know how RAD will need your support in the future to apply pressure.
Per RAD’s complaint, a WVDEP inspector-in-training evaluated the area in front of NJES on August 28, 2019. WVDEP sent RAD the inspection report on September 3 Read the Inspection Report here. The inspector found no evidence of violations and concluded that JUI has 30-days from the day they seeded the area (8/20/2019) to re-seed any un-stabilized areas. WVDEP followed up with Mr. Lee Synder of JUI who admitted that “this standing water is the result of the capping of a sink hole that was completed by JUI at the request of the Jefferson County School Board”. JUI made a vague promise to develop a remediation plan for this area, WVDEP did not provide details on the timeline or possible components of that plan.
Although it seems like WVDEP and JUI have checked off all the boxes for this inspection, we are not satisfied and this matter is not closed. In fact, WVDEP missed a violation. We sent the attached response to WVDEP today, here are the highlights:
- The pooled water area has not stabilized (grass seed and mulch is washing away and not germinating, sediment from the parking lot is entering the area) and sediment trapping structures are no longer in place. Per the permit, these structures must be in place until the area stabilizes, regardless of the 30-day re-seeding window. Furthermore, as a courtesy to the public, a high visibility fence should be installed to discourage anyone entering the area.
- We request details and timelines of JUI’s proposed remediation plan for the sink hole and the pooled water area.
- We ask them (Again) to review the permit’s Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), Ground Water Pollution Prevention Plan (GWPPP) and Karst Mitigation Plan for adequacy to protect our WV rivers, streams, and groundwater. We also urged the WVDEP to consider other actions, such as increased inspection frequency and reporting.
- Groundwater Protection Plan Violation Due to Sinkhole Repair:
WVDEP’s Groundwater Protection Program’s (GPP) “Sinkhole Mitigation Guidance” states that “whichever [sinkhole remediation] treatment option is chosen, it should avoid surface water ponding or the creation of high soil moisture conditions in excess of 72 hours.” Mr. Lee Synder of JUI confirmed on 9/3/2019 in the DEP Inspection Report that “this standing water is the result of the capping of a sink hole that was completed by JUI at the request of the Jefferson County School Board.”
The Inspector-in-Training Mr. Travis Hays’ conclusion of “I can find no evidence of a violation regarding sinkhole remediation,” was a statement made before the phone call with Mr. Snyder. The conclusion is therefore uninformed and incorrect. Not only that, but DEP is remiss in not investigating further to discover the source of the pooling.
As Mr. Synder has admitted that the pooling water is the result of work done to the sinkhole, and not the result of stabilization efforts, and the water has ponded for more than 72 hours, this appears to be a clear violation of the Groundwater Protection Plan and Karst Mitigation Plan approved under the existing permit. As this violation is in regards to the GPP and Karst portions of the stormwater permit, the 30-day window for re-seeding work does not apply.
The important take-away here is that there is at least one violation involved with this pooled water. We made two demands as a result: the WVDEP must reconsider that the pooling water constitutes a violation of the GPP and Karst portions of this stormwater permit and the 30 day window does not apply. If WVDEP does not find a violation upon re-evaluation, RAD demands an explanation. Secondly, the Inspection report must be amended to report a GPP and Karst Violation.
We’ll keep you updated with the WVDEP’s response. They can’t sweep violations like this under the rug.
Jefferson County Health Department
The same day we received the WVDEP inspection report, RAD contacted the Jefferson County WV Health Department to file a complaint about the pooled water, specifically that it is a public health hazard and a breeding ground for mosquitoes. We filed a formal, written complaint on 9/4/2019 and were told that a Sanitarian (an official responsible for public health) would be investigating within the next few days. Read RAD’s Health Department Complaint here
In the complaint, we also included concerns we’ve received in the past week regarding a swampy area that has developed in the school yard near to the well head. It is unknown where this water is coming from, we are concerned that it could be a sign of any number of infrastructure problems, as water and sewer infrastructure runs through this area. What we do know is that children are getting muddy at recess playing in or near this area. The Health Department will be evaluating this area and may be completing sewer dye tests (dye is flushed in the school and if it appears on the surface, there is a break).
We’ll be following up with the Health Department to make sure they inspect, file a report and require actions. We’ll keep you updated.
So, what are we going to do with the petition?
We’re going to use it to apply pressure to the decision makers, to demonstrate that Jefferson County is aware of this problem and we want it fixed correctly. We’ve had good responses from WVDEP and the Health Department so far. Surprisingly, although they were copied on all correspondence, no one from Jefferson County Commission or the Board of Education responded to our letters.
At the next opportunity to interact with these government entities, RAD will be referencing the petition as proof that the community is aware, concerned and ready to act on this issue. We will not be closing it yet, and with your help we can collect even more signatures! We are considering delivering the petition to WVDEP if they refuse to acknowledge the Groundwater Protection Plan violation. We are also considering referencing or presenting the petition at future BOE, JCC and Health meetings.
What are the next steps?
We’ll wait for WVDEP’s response and for the Health Department to make their inspection. We’ll let you know what they say. From there, RAD will continue to press both the WVDEP violation issue and the Health Department. We will be speaking with the BOE and JCC
individually and during public comments so they understand the issues and can take action. We are also working on longer term strategies, you’ll see them in the future.
Thank you for helping RAD defend Jefferson County, with hundreds of neighbors and friends in support of action for NJES, we know we’ll be able to push hard and make a difference we can all see!