Verizon Utility Poles and Railroad Ties Illegally Dumped On Farm
Did you know utility poles pose a serious threat to our air, water and land? This is because utility poles are covered with a wood preservative consisting of pentachlorophenol, creosote, arsenic and chromium. Together, these chemicals have been quoted as being “some of the most hazardous toxic contaminants on the market”. Some of the effects of these hazardous contaminants include cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems and nervous system damage. With proper disposal, these hazardous utility poles don’t pose a significant risk to the general public. It is for this reason the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and local governments regulate the disposal of this dangerous product, designating special landfills designed for hazardous materials to be the final place of disposal. The effects of illegally disposed utility poles can be disastrous, and these effects very well may be experienced by Elk Lick Township residents in Somerset County.
On September 29, 2011, JPO Somerset Trust purchased a 111 acre property from Somerset Tax Bureau, Inc, previously owned by Terry Brennerman, site unseen. After the purchase of this property, JPO Somerset Trust, found 12 piles of illegally disposed utility poles. JPO Somerset Trust retained Musser Engineering, Inc to estimate the number of poles on the property in Elk Lick Township. Musser Engineering officially estimated that between 46,000 and 70,000 utility poles were illegally stacked on 3.8 acres of this property in 2005, which remain to this day. For 15 years the toxic
chemicals from these utility poles have been making their way into the soil and waterways of Elk Lick Township, posing a serious risk to animals and residents within the area. To make matters worse, there is a trout nursery and stream located on the property, managed by the Elk Lick Hunting Club, which runs into Casselman River Watershed, managed by the Casselman River Watershed Association (CRWA).
All of this brings us to two main questions: how did these utility poles get disposed of and why are they still illegally stacked on JPO Somerset Trust’s property 15 years later? Prior to the purchase of this property through the trust, it was owned by Terry Brennerman, President of Tub Mill Farms. Brennerman was a contractor for Bridgewell Corporation, the largest telephone pole provider in the United States. Brennerman’s contract with Bridgewell required him to transport all old utility poles, previously the property of Verizon, to a qualified landfill, where they pose little risk to the environment. Rather than properly disposing of the utility poles in the designated landfill, Brennerman allegedly saved on transport costs (estimated to cost $1.92 million in 2019), dumped the poles illegally on his property, and then allegedly collected a false certificate of recycling from a qualified landfill/disposal site. This certificate of recycling was allegedly approved by an unnamed employee at Bridgewell Corporation, which was then allegedly paid to Terry Brennerman. Bridgewell claims to have since parted ways with the unnamed employee. In addition to Brennerman’s contract with Bridgewell Corporation, he had a contract with Koppers Company to properly dispose of hazardous railroad ties belonging to major railroad companies, which he also illegally disposed of on his property around the same time.
Since October 27, 2014, Brennerman has been under a Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (PA DEP) consent order to remove all illegally disposed of ties, poles and related material within 6 years. With the deadline of the consent order quickly approaching, no steps have been taken by Brennerman or the PA DEP to remove all hazardous materials, which still remain on Oliver’s property, leaving harmful chemicals to leach into the soil and waterways of Elk Lick Township, endangering potentially 2,000 Elk Lick residents.
On October 27, 2020, Terry Brennerman will be in violation of PA DEP’s consent order, resulting in civil penalty payments of $250 per day for each violation, in addition to other applicable remedies. If you are a resident of Somerset County and wish to ensure the PA DEP enforces Terry Brennerman’s consent order, we urge you to call the DEP Southwest Regional Office at 412-442-4000, or send a letter to Ronald Schwartz, Regional Director, at 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
51st District, PA State Representative, Matt Dowling, has requested the DEP investigate this illegal dumping and environment risk. For further information, call Oliver Realty Group at 412-400-8229.