EPA says waste in creek not a danger but must be removed

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said asphalt that ended up in a creek near Lowell isn’t a danger, but still must be cleaned up.

Bridge construction along Cats Creek Road caused some concern among drivers who noticed that asphalt was ending up Cats Creek last week as week progressed.

Marietta native Scott Trekal, 38, said he noticed the asphalt in the creek upon visiting his uncle a week ago. He said he was concerned about the construction site.

“The (live gas) pipe going underneath the bridge didn’t have hard barricades,” he said. “The guys that were working on it didn’t have tie offs on anything (to keep them from potentially falling into the creek). Usually, (workers) will put a net under the bridge to keep debris out of the water.”

The construction on the bridge is occurring because PDC Energy, a Colorado-based oil and gas company, is looking to drill a well in the vicinity.

Ron Wirth, vice president of finance and treasurer at PDC, said though the company very recently signed a Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) with the county, the company itself is not doing the road work.

“The county (provides) a short list of contractors, we select one then they actually do the work,” he said. “I believe it’s overseen by the county engineer.”

The contractor selected for the job was U.S. Bridge, based in the Cambridge area.

Heather Lauer, spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) said an investigator was dispatched to the scene to find out if the debris in the creek would cause environmental concern.

“Our Emergency Response Unit…(said) this is old asphalt,” said Lauer. “So it wouldn’t be leeching oil into the creek.”

County Engineer Roger Wright said because the asphalt is so old, most of the would-be contaminants are no longer there.

“Live asphalt into the stream…would have all kinds of oils,” he said. “Over time the asphalt oils leech out and burn out due to the sun. We don’t have any oily residue dropping into the stream; it’s 10 to 15 years old and fairly brittle.”

Lauer said though there is no environmental concern, the asphalt must be removed from the creek.

Wright said larger chunks of asphalt have been removed, but the finer material is harder to remove.

“After talking to the EPA, some of that material is considered rock; it’s made with…gravel,” he said. “What little bit of material that fell into the stream can remain in the stream. We (feel) we’ve done the best we could to assuage safety concerns.”

Trekal said the other concerns he had come from being in construction for many years.

“I’ve worked construction all my life,” he said. “I just want people to be safe.”

Wright said the other concerns have been passed along to the contractor.

“The (other) safety concerns…are no longer present,” he said. “At this point we have…(gotten) the road barricaded and the road is closed and (the contractor is) working on bridge replacement.”

Wright said he feels all safety concerns are being handled well and is content with the contract with PDC Energy.

“We’re happy to work with PDC Energy, who is solely funding the bridge project,” Wright said. “I’ve not gotten any complaints from local residents…We appreciate (PDC’s) cooperation.”

Wright said the partnership is a demonstration of positive things that can happen in a community with oil and gas, not just the negative like excess truck activity and the like.

“This is one of the benefits we see (working with an oil and gas company); there’s also a positive side to it,” he said.