Ongoing Sedimentation Issues at Deer Lake Pollute Meadow Run

For the past year we have been observing increased levels of sedimentation downstream of the construction site on Deer Lake (located on the main stem of Meadow Run). We’ve received numerous complaints from downstream residents, fishermen and paddlers. We have filed nearly a dozen complaints (our most recent written complaint was filed on November 4) with the appropriate authorities at the Fayette County Conservation District and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. It seems the Deer Lake Improvement Project and their contractor and co-permittee Custom Contracting have struggled to comply with the terms of their permits. Despite numerous inspections finding violations (over 100 in all), many of which are ongoing, DEP is seemingly been unable to force them to do so.

In addition to the ongoing erosion and sedimentation issues, DEP has also cited the permittees for improper placement of fill outside the permitted area in an August 30, 2016 inspection report and on September 6, 2016 issued a Compliance Order requiring operations on the site to cease until the fill was moved to a location within the permit area. This was done, and dredging work resumed. However, fill is once again being stored illegally outside of the permitted area behind the work trailer between Deer Lake and Washington Trail. The Department observed this during an October 31, 2016 inspection and issued a Notice of Violation on November 2, 2016 regarding this violation.

The Department is now considering a major modification to the dredging permit. The proposed application would simply expand the permit terms to include the area where the fill is being stored illegally – essentially sanctioning the initial violation. The Department has not yet taken substantial steps to deter the applicant from future violations and so this would, in essence, reward the applicant for their malfeasance. We filed extensive comments on this application and are awaiting the Department’s response.

We are not opposed to reconstruction of the dam and spillway or the dredging work. We simply want it to comply with the law so as not to further pollute Meadow Run.

Meadow Run is an exceptional and beloved Laurel Highlands stream. It is an outstanding and very popular fishery. Its natural features—namely the natural waterslides and cascade waterfalls—make it an extremely popular tourism destination and a stream frequented by locals as well. Meadow Run flows into the Youghiogheny River at the beginning of one of the most popular sections of whitewater on the entire east coast—the lower Youghiogheny River. Meadow Run is an incredible regional economic asset and natural amenity. It is ecologically significant.

It is the responsibility of the Department to ensure that work done per the Department’s own permits is done in a way that does not consistently violate the rules and laws put into place to protect our shared resources.

For more information please see the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article from November 30: DEP: Deer Lake Dam Reconstruction Fouling Trout Stream