DEP pulls permit on Scrabble development

August 30, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has suspended the permit it issued earlier this month for a sewage disposal system at a controversial residential development in northern Berkeley County, a DEP official confirmed Tuesday.

An Aug. 24 order signed by Lisa McClung, DEP's director of Water and Waste Management, notified Greensburg Estates developer PVW Enterprises LLC of Rockville, Md., of the agency's intent to hold a public hearing concerning the permit and not move forward with installing the system, said Jessica Greathouse, the DEP's chief communications officer. A hearing date, time and location is expected to be scheduled in a couple of days and will be advertised well in advance of the meeting, Greathouse said.

"(PVW Enterprises) could appeal our suspension order and go to the Environmental Quality Board," Greathouse said of the developer's immediate legal options.

Gregory Bailey, PVW Enterprises' attorney, was unaware of the suspension Tuesday and declined to comment.


"This is the first I've heard of it," Bailey said.

Bailey's client has proposed construction of 44 homes on 105.2 acres in Scrabble, a small community near Whiting's Neck. The Berkeley County Planning Commission's approval of the project last year was appealed to circuit court by a Whiting's Neck citizens' group, which was partially successful in challenging how the proposed development was advertised and approved by the Commission. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in May refused to hear an appeal, which didn't surprise Jennifer Caskey, one of five litigants who had the lawsuit filed.

"I'm extremely pleased that they've took another look at this project," Caskey said of the DEP's decision to hold a public hearing.

Regardless of the court decision, three of Caskey's most significant concerns she hopes still are addressed in the public hearing are long-term financial responsibility for the innovative sewage system's maintenance, monitoring standards and potential need for compliance with West Virginia Public Service Commission regulations.

"If (this system) goes into failure, it could be a real horror show," Caskey said of the area's porous, karst geology.

"It is our intention to get questions answered beforehand rather than after the fact," fellow litigant David Klinger said.

Klinger said he met with DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer about his concerns when she attended the Vision Shared town hall meeting at James Rumsey Technical Institute with Gov. Joe Manchin and other cabinet members Aug. 22.

Klinger said she contacted him the next morning and said the permit already had been issued, but noted those concerned still had the right to appeal.

The day after that, Klinger said the group was in the middle of polling neighbors on what to do next when Timmermeyer called again to tell him the permit was suspended.

"The response from the state has been admirable," said Klinger, commending Timmermeyer for her immediate attention.

Klinger said he and other residents had until July 28 to submit comments to the state about the "underground injection control draft permit" for Greensburg Estates, which Greathouse said Tuesday was issued Aug. 11.

"We didn't get any response to our comments until the 21st of August," Klinger said. He said he was told the permit was issued on Aug. 17.

Though Caskey said she and others involved have come to the conclusion that the development may be inevitable, "you want to see it's done in as responsible fashion as possible."

"There's a right way to do it," Caskey said.

After the public hearing, Greathouse said comments will be studied to determine whether any changes to the permit are warranted.

Those changes can be appealed to the Environmental Quality Board. Like a possible suspension order appeal, the five-member panel's decision can be appealed to circuit court, she said.

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