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Home >  Health & Science >  Environment Printer-friendly versionE-mail this story
Plan to dump fill in Allegheny River halted

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a state plan to dump up to 1.6 million cubic yards of material dredged from the lower Monongahela River into deep, lifeless holes in the Allegheny River.

The Allegheny River holes -- some 80 feet deep and filled with water devoid of oxygen -- were dug by commercial river sand and gravel dredging companies and are 24 to 36 miles upriver from the Point, between Brackenridge in Allegheny County and Clinton in Armstrong County.

"While we still believe the idea of filling these holes might have had merit, we've withdrawn the proposal until the state Department of Environmental Protection decides whether or not it wants to provide a stronger rationale for the placement," said Richard Dowling, Corps of Engineers spokesman.

The DEP proposed dumping the dredged material from the corps' Monongahela dam and lock improvement and construction project as a way to improve the Allegheny River fish habitat.

But the plan to move river bottom aggregate from the more industrialized and polluted Monongahela River to the Allegheny has been criticized by environmental and sportsmen's groups concerned that the fill material is contaminated.

The DEP has said it would use only sand and gravel, not fine or muddy material from the Monongahela.

"We're not opposed to filling in the holes eventually, but we need to know more about the fill material that goes into them," said Robert Silber, director of advocacy and outreach for 3 Rivers RiverKeeper.

Some of the same organizations opposed to moving dredge material from the Monongahela to the Allegheny also are opposed to the continued removal of more than 5 million tons a year of glacial-era sand and gravel from the Allegheny.

"Before taxpayers pay to fill in those holes," Silber said, "we need to stop making them in the first place."

Dowling said suspension of the Allegheny River hole filling plan would not affect the pending renewal of permits for four companies that want to continue dredging sand and gravel from the river.

A public hearing on those permits for Hanson Aggregates P.M.A., Glacial Sand and Gravel Co., Lane Construction Corp. and Tri-State River Products and a draft environmental impact statement prepared by the companies' consultant, Tetra Tech of Maryland, is scheduled beginning at 6 p.m. and continuing until at least 8 p.m. next Wednesday in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

The hearing will follow an Army Corps of Engineers "Open House" on the permits from 4 to 6 p.m. at the convention center, during which individuals will be able to tour exhibits and ask questions.

Dowling said the dredge material from the Monongahela will now be used to prepare former industrial sites for reuse. He said 500,000 tons of clean fill -- about 350,000 cubic yards -- has already been used at the former USX Duquesne Works site in Duquesne.

He said all fill material used on the industrial sites is tested to insure it meets state standards.


Don Hopey can be reached at dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


Correction/Clarification (Published Aug. 30, 2002): A public hearing on the proposed renewal of commercial dredging permits for the Allegheny and Ohio rivers will be held Wednesday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, beginning at 6 p.m. and continuing until at least 8 p.m. An incorrect time for the hearing was listed in the Aug. 28 version of this story. The hearing will follow an Army Corps of Engineers "Open House" on the permits from 4 to 6 p.m. at the convention center, during which individuals will be able to tour exhibits and ask questions.

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