Concerned residents of Daguscahonda, Elk County officials, state Representative Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) and members of the Elk County Tea Party crowded the Ridgway Township Municipal Building Wednesday night for a public meeting hosted by the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] to discuss instituting a public water supply in Daguscahonda.
The meeting was held to discuss the Daguscahonda public water system in Ridgway Township and the steps necessary to comply with the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act and its regulations.
In attendance included, but not limited to, Ridgway Township Supervisors Rick Glover and Milly Bowers, Elk County Commissioner Janis Kemmer, Elk County Tea Party founder Blaise Dornisch and Elk County Sheriff Jeff Krieg.
Following the recognition of officials, DEP Regional Director of the Northwest Office Kelly Burch began the meeting with his opening remarks and acknowledged the members of the community for attending and show their support.
"I want to thank all of you for the tremendous support to your community for coming out here [Wednesday] to listen to us and more importantly for us to listen to you," Burch said. "We have seven program areas and the one we are going to hear about [Wednesday] is the Safe Drinking Water program.
"Our mission is to protect human health, public health and the environment, and that is really why we are here to learn more about your system and more importantly how we can work with you in going forward. It's not only our mission statement but it's embedded in the laws and statutes that we are obligated to uphold."
According to Burch, DEP receives federal funding from the USCPA to implement a state drinking water program.
"We are here to work with you people," Burch said. "You are going to hear that theme throughout the night and I can assure you we will and you are not alone on this. There are other communities like [your community] that just kind of came up on our radar screen for one reason or another and first of all again we need to learn more about your system before we can talk to you about what we need to do in going forward. We understand your situation and the representative [Gabler] has made it very clear with how we would like to have this handled and it falls right in line with how we plan to do it which is cooperatively on a timeline that gives your community the time to find a solution."
Gabler also acknowledged the crowd for attending the meeting and added to Burch's remarks.
"First and foremost the town of Daguscahonda has a system that has worked and has worked for you for a long time and we need to make sure that anything that is done is done in cooperation with the citizens of the town because the last thing we would ever need would be for somebody from outside come in and tell you what you can't do," Gabler said. "What my hope is as we work through this is that we can present the citizens of Daguscahonda with some options as far as what you can do to provide for the sustainability of your system for years to come and so I wanted to be very clear that I think what is absolutely important is that we make sure anything that is going to cause a problem or a lack of reliability for the citizens of Daguscahonda is off the table and I'm going to be working very hard to make sure that is the case."
Following Gabler's remarks, Brad Vanderhoof, Program Manager for the Safe Water Program in the northwest regional office, gave a 15-minute presentation on the basic safe drinking water requirements.
According to Vanderhoof, in 1985, Pennsylvania government officials developed standards for drinking water and since then, all communities across the Commonwealth have had to abide by the same standards.
"The same rules and things apply whether that's the city of Philadelphia or a small community on the northern tier," Vanderhoof said. "They are uniform standards that apply to everyone. You are not the only small community out there-- much of our region is rural."
DEP officials also detailed the surface water treatment history of other communities within the United States and also the options of moving forward.
After the presentation, time was slotted for public questioning and feedback. Concerned residents took advantage of the designated hour and a half to voice their frustration with DEP.
Elk County Sheriff Jeff Krieg was one of the first to voice his concerns.
"Daguscahonda, that place has been there before dirt," Krieg said. "Some of the people in this room their grandparents and their great-grandparents have been drinking this water. I understand your concerns about parasites. They don't have the money to incorporate; there is no mayor, there is no board of supervisors, there is no secretary or treasurer. Who are you going to fine when they are not in compliance, Elk County? The first place to suffer a recession and the last place to get over it."
Pick up a copy of the Thursday, July 12, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.