The state Department of Environmental Protection says it plans to resort to forced entry on Luzerne County property to address a flooding threat because the county refused to grant access.
County Chief Engineer Joe Gibbons said Monday the state’s decision is premature because the county was negotiating property access terms.
The county-owned property near the Sans Souci Parkway in Hanover Township has three boreholes drilled in 1968 to drain water from the South Wilkes-Barre Colliery mine workings, according to a certified letter sent to county officials.
Two of the boreholes have collapsed, and the third is in poor condition, the letter said. The state wants to install five new boreholes this summer or fall.
The boreholes are needed to prevent “dangerous impoundment” of underground mine water that could cause flooding in Hanover Township, the letter said.
The letter says the county has been unwilling to grant the state permission to access the site to date, despite the state’s “reasonable efforts to obtain permission.”
Gibbons said he was reviewing the access request with county solicitors to ensure the state was accepting all liability. As part of negotiations, he also wanted the state to consider waiving fees on some other future DEP permits in exchange for the county’s willingness to provide access to the county land.
“In the past, DEP has charged the county for permit paperwork that we never thought one government agency should charge another government entity. It doesn’t make sense for the taxpayers,” Gibbons said.
He said he also wanted more information on whether two additional boreholes will put more mine-polluted water into Solomon Creek.
“For them to say we’ve been unresponsive or are not willing to take action to protect public interest couldn’t be further from the truth,” Gibbons said. “We’re doing everything in our power to protect taxpayers.”
The state said its contractors will leave the county land in the same or better condition when the project is completed. The county can avoid forced entry by executing and delivering an access consent agreement to the state, the letter said.
“We realize that this may be viewed as an intrusion; however, the project work is very important to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Hanover Township,” it said.