The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the owner of numerous recreational vehicles, cars and trucks that are stored near the intersection of Route 322 and Deep Hollow Road in Cranberry Township to remove them within 30 days.
Randy J. Spencer of 166 Garden Lane, Franklin, was served the DEP order Monday following an investigation by the state agency. Spencer owns two properties on Deep Hollow Road and used the lots for vehicle storage.
On July 19-20, the campers, vehicles and other objects stored on the property were washed into Lower Two Mile Run alongside Deep Hollow Road. They obstructed a nearby culvert, and that led to extreme flooding on the roadway.
In addition, a large amount of debris spewed out into the Allegheny River at the confluence with the creek.
"The debris obstructing the culvert downstream of the site exacerbated flooding of Lower Two Mile Run upstream and caused additional debris, silt and sediment to enter both the creek and river," noted the DEP order.
DEP officials inspected the site Aug. 14 and found 27 campers, nine vehicles, one trailer and a portable water tank at the location. That inventory did not include what washed out into the river.
The material "creates a danger of pollution of the waters of the Commonwealth and regulation of such activity is required to avoid pollution," reads the order. The materials in Two Mile Run "diminishes or changes" the current as well as the course of the waterway, said DEP.
The location and storage of the items in the floodway constitute "a public nuisance," according to the DEP. Allowing those materials to go into a Commonwealth water results in pollution that is a violation of the Clean Streams Law.
In addition, noted the DEP order, there is an environmental issue associated with the flooding and its impact on the stored vehicles.
Five species of federal and/or state endangered species of mussels are known to inhabit the Allegheny River near the creek outlet. In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated part of the Allegheny River, including that area near the creek outflow, as "critical habitat."
Spencer was notified that the department had issued a notice of violation to him, via certified mail, on Aug. 29 and was requested to remove the items from the floodway within 15 days. One month later, Spencer had not removed the items and that resulted in this week's DEP order.
In the order, Spencer was directed to:
- Cease and desist. Spencer was instructed to "cease all placement of and/or allowing the placement of campers and vehicles in the floodway." In addition, if there is placement of "any material, substance or object in the floodway," Spencer must first obtain written approval from DEP.
- Removal of items. Within 30 days of the Sept. 30 order, Spencer shall remove from the floodway all the items, campers and vehicles at the site. Within five days of removing the materials, the owner was instructed to notify the department that he had complied.
- Compliance. When removing the materials, Spencer must comply with state and federal regulations, including the Clean Streams Law and the Dam Safety Act.
- Appeal. Spencer has 30 days from the time the order was issued to appeal the DEP ruling.
The DEP order contained no information as to whether Spencer is subject to penalties, including fines.
PennDOT in the mix
The DEP order comes less than two months after a related proceeding with a similar result was held by PennDOT.
Spencer has three sprawling junkyards in Cranberry Township. In addition to the Deep Hollow Road yard, one is located off Garden Drive while the third is up a section of Victory Heights hill.
He has held PennDOT permits and licenses for "junkyard or automotive dismantler and recycler operations" since 1994. Those operations have been challenged in various litigation moves over the years by Cranberry Township officials as well as owners of properties near his yards.
On Aug. 7, a hearing at the PennDOT district office in Oil City focused on addressing various issues pertaining to the Spencer properties. Attorneys for PennDOT and Spencer came to a preliminary agreement as to the future of those junkyards.
The agreement included:
- All Spencer-owned vehicles, including cars and campers, would be removed from Deep Hollow Road and along Route 322. The removal would be done within 180 days of Sept. 1.
Those vehicles would be moved "to an acceptable site" but no information as to what that site would be was provided during the hearing.
- The agreement called for Spencer to "install acceptable (junkyard) screening" at a vehicle-filled stretch just off Garden Lane above Route 322. It had to be installed within 90 days of Sept. 1.
- Different screening would be installed at a third junkyard on Victory Heights hill just above the Deep Hollow Road and Route 322 intersection.
No information as to whether PennDOT has finalized the details of the agreement, a requirement needed in order to issue an order, is yet available.