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Alcosan may fire firm that bribed Gigliotti

Thursday, April 27, 2000

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority is exploring whether it can cancel a sludge hauling contract with a New Castle company whose part-owner paid bribes to state Rep. Frank Gigliotti.

"We need to evaluate the legal and financial implications of canceling the contract," Alcosan spokeswoman Nancy Barylak said yesterday.

Alcosan has a three-year contract, which runs until May 31, 2001, with PF Environmental Inc. of New Castle. Its part-owner, Patrick Copple, admitted to federal investigators that he paid Gigliotti thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for contracts to haul sewage sludge away from the Alcosan plant in Woods Run on the North Side.

Gigliotti was an Alcosan board member at the time the contract was awarded.

Gigliotti, D-Brookline, pleaded guilty this month to extortion and related charges.

Copple cooperated in the federal investigation under a grant of immunity from prosecution.

Copple's firm has been fired by the city of New Castle and suspended by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation from its list of approved contractors because of the bribes.

Under the Alcosan contract, Barylak said, PF Environmental is paid $33.26 a ton for hauling away up to 25,000 tons of sludge a year. The sludge is the residue from the sewage treatment process.

The sludge is mixed with cement kiln dust to create a synthetic soil used for covering landfills.

To date, PF Environmental has been paid $1.6 million by Alcosan, she said.

She said the Alcosan board, now headed by state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, asked its solicitor, Dennis Veraldi, "to look at the current contract with PF Environmental and determine if it could be terminated. We need to see where we stand legally if we wanted to terminate the contract."

PF Environmental got the contract on June 1, 1998, as Alcosan sought to reduce its sludge-hauling costs. Alcosan also uses a Maryland contractor, BioGro, to remove sludge from the plant at $43.80 a ton.

Gigliotti lobbied heavily for giving a portion of the sludge removal business to PF Environmental.

The Alcosan board plans to meet this afternoon, but Barylak said she doesn't expect action on the sludge contract.

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