Audacious Al's geo-technical wasteland
    survey RTK: Part I

    During the special meeting of the Fayette County Commissioners on February 26,
    2014, Commission Chairman Al Ambrosini referred numerous times to a
    geological, pre-construction survey of the $1.25 million dollar land where he
    chooses to build a county jail. Anytime anyone inquired about possible problems,
    he quipped that it was all in the survey report.

    Under Right To Know, I obtained that August 19, 2013 document, titled
    "Preliminary Subsurface Investigation Report for New Universal Well Services

    Ambrosini contends -- and, therefore, substitutes a soil sample specifically done
    for jail construction with this report -- that Universal Well was the company
    thinking of buying the same land, just last year, when its value was listed as a
    fraction of the now $1.25+ million dollars that the county wants to pay for it.
    Universal, however, read the same report 7 months ago and had the good sense
    to walk away and leave the deal on the table.

    Why was that?

    Universal, at the time, was thinking of expanding its business and adding
    buildings at the Mt. Braddock Industrial Park, to buy the land on the opposite side
    of Mt. Braddock Road. The company wanted to add four new buildings where
    Ambrosini and Commissioner Vince Zapotosky say the new jail now will be built.

    Ambrosini, at the special meeting 17 days ago, said he was "comfortable" with
    the expectation that sewage would be feasible on the land for the jail. Anytime
    any citizen inquired about getting new sewage approval for the jail and resolving
    existing sewage back ups, power problems, flooding, sink holes that took 4
    months to fill, under mining problems and pyrite issues resolved, Ambrosini
    again and again said that all the issues are noted "in the report."

    When industrial park business owner Steve Laskey pointed out at that meeting
    that his business has been flooded numerous times on rainy days and that he has
    had raw sewage also flood back up and explode into his business four times,
    Ambrosini said, "We're aware of all conditions."

    Yes, Ambrosini provided one of those jaw dropping moments when he assured
    Laskey and the public that "this project (building the jail) will help to correct those

    If this land that Ambrosini and Zapotosky want so badly for a jail at $1.25 million
    dollars is such a great deal, why then did Universal walk away from the table after
    reading this preliminary report from Construction Engineering Consultants, Inc.
    last year when they could have purchased it for far less then? Why wasn't
    Universal jumping up and down with excitement, thinking it had got the bargain of
    the decade?

    One source at Universal, who initially declined comment and commented only
    after hearing that a jail was being built there, said that the company had already
    been screwed over once, across the street at their original site on Braddock View
    Drive. Land that was supposed to be solid, reportedly, was not solid. Attempts to
    reach Universal's special project manager Mike Kloecker, who authorized the
    2013 geological testing on the land, were unsuccessful at this time.

    The source, who, eventually, did comment on the strict terms that he was
    speaking from personal opinion and not as a representative of the company,
    thinks that his employer probably also knew the issues building its first buildings
    started for the rest of the industrial park, and probably did not want to risk
    flooding out its own first group of buildings and operations, if the second site was
    chosen nearby there for expansion.

    Now, with the county wanting to put a jail on that same land Universal opted not
    to buy, that concern that Universal will start to experience problems is getting

    "When we built, businesses farther down Mt. Braddock Road started having
    problems with flooding and sewage backing up," he said. Some sold off their
    businesses and moved out. A meeting with many of the stake-holders was held
    by the DEP. It was as though Universal was on trial.

    "It wasn't anything the contractors did wrong building for Universal. There are
    letters, things in writing, from the DEP, saying that the county's redevelopment
    authority altered a creek without a permit."

    Run off water just wasn't getting to the creeks or places such as Gist Run due to
    development cutting the path of drainage and man made pipes and diversions
    ponding the water where it was not supposed to go.

    While that company representative was hesitant to share those letters, other
    business owners were not hesitant to talk openly.

    From Laskey, those DEP communications were shared here. Of the flooding, the
    DEP wrote on November 7, 2013:

    "The Department of Environmental Protection received the first complaint of
    flooding in 2007. Department staff has been working to define the problem and find
    a solution for many years. Engineering reports attribute the problem to the original
    drainage paths being cut off during development of the property. The
    Redevelopment Authority of the County of Fayette (RACF) graded and filled the site
    to create the flat, pad-ready industrial park in the last 1970s or early 1980s. In the
    process, RACF relocated one stream and completely eliminated another. The
    original drainage paths to Gist Run, and ultimately Dunlap Creek, were closed off
    by the development, resulting in upstream water having no further connection to
    the downstream Gist Run. Runoff now goes into what was once a small pond on
    property purchased from RACF. When the pond water surface reaches a certain
    elevation, flooding occurs.

    The Department has no record that RACF obtained the requisite permit for such
    activity. RACF has taken the position that it must have obtained a permit, but has
    not been able to produce any documentation to substantiate this. The Department's
    legal staff does not think there is a sufficient basis to bring legal action against
    RACF at this time.

    Engineering plans have been drafted for the creation of a new stream channel to
    connect the pond and its upstream flows to Gist Run. The cost of the project is
    estimated at $150,000 - $175,000. Until funding is obtained, there is nothing that the
    Department can do."

    Flooding and having his business ruined four times alone with sewage aren't
    Laskey's only worries. His land was said to be solid land when he purchased it, a
    ready to go pod for his building. He still can't get Fed Ex deliveries to his shop
    because GPS doesn't recognize the industrial park street.

    Laskey, also, now has official "wetlands" status on part of his property, so
    expansion isn't an option anymore for him. That in itself is a personal loss for him,
    but for the county as well, since he feels his small business should be employing
    10 additional persons and could be, if he could expand on his man-made wetlands

    Another of Laskey's concerns should be a significant concern for Fay Penn, the
    county commissioners, the DEP, township officials and all Mt. Braddock
    residents. Laskey pointed out at the county meeting, and again this week when
    we met, that another business owner nearby his has a few large oil tanks that rise
    when the area floods. If those tanks continue to rise with flooding and rupture,
    Laskey's nearby business would be completely wiped out, as would other
    businesses in the industrial park. Possibly, even a new jail up the road, its
    prisoners and staff, could be in jeopardy.

    What would environmental clean up of Gist Run and Dunlap Creek cost and how
    long would it take for oil contaminates to reach other communities downstream of
    Mt. Braddock?  

    The Preliminary report that came in this recent RTK answer is just that, a
    preliminary report that suspects pyrites will be a concern. On a happier note, it
    concludes that mine subsidence should not be problem since the land was strip

    However, did the report's mention of the following nix Universal's plan to
    purchase the land when the company reps read this on page 5:

    "...Typical shallow foundations for the new buildings would then lie entirely in the
    site fill soils or possibly a small portion in newly placed fill. Due to the variably
    consolidated site fill that exceeds to the base of the Pittsburgh Coal Seam at an
    approximate elevation of 1108, larger than acceptable differential settlements may

    "The only way to virtually eliminate these settlements would be to utilize a deep
    foundation that entends to the site bedrock layer. Cast-in-place concrete piers
    would likely be the most economical deep foundation option. Caissons would have
    to extend to auger refusal on the underlying sandstone bedrock encountered below
    the coal seam in Boring B-2. Caissons should then be socketed at lease three feet
    in the bedrock or until auger refusal is encountered. Caissons could then be
    designed for an end bearing value of 10 tons per square foot. Temporary steel
    liners would likely be needed to prevent sloughing of caisson sidewalls and limit
    any groundwater infiltration... If deep foundations are utilized, additional test
    borings should be drilled in each building location. The borings should extend into
    the underlying bedrock in order to better evaluate the bedrock below the site and
    better estimate caisson lengths."  

    Aren't caissons used in under water construction?

    Given that the county still opts to pursue buying and building a jail on this site,
    and given that Ambrosini pledged assurance in a public meeting that "this project
    will help to correct" the industrial park flooding and the sewage back-ups into
    businesses when flooding occurs, is the county now not liable now for any
    additional flooding to the businesses should the jail project proceed?

    Fay Penn, RACF, DEP and/or the majority commission's private funds should
    have to pay to reconnect the run-off water to flow back to Gist Run, if nobody
    steps up now to correct the problem before more profits are made from sales and
    more development is allowed.  

    It's easy to understand why Laskey is frustrated and bitter because nobody has
    corrected all the man-made flooding problems in development. To boot, he was
    threatened with legal action when he attempted to construct a barrier wall to stop
    the flooding.

    Businesses such as Laskey's that bought pods at the industrial park shouldn't
    have to keep losing their shirts due to man-made development mistakes, while
    everyone else passes the buck of responsibility and gets their cut of the profits.
    This industrial park shouldn't have to die a miserable death and be resurrected
    one day with the next TIF to improve infrastructure and fill gaping holes.

    An investigation report into the flooding, reportedly, was lost at the DEP and
    copies of it at an engineering firm, likewise, were lost in a fire.

    At least nobody claimed that his dog ate it.

    15 Mar 14
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