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Bridge work concerns neighbors

  • SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Warning signs are posted at the covered bridge in Little Gap.
    SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Warning signs are posted at the covered bridge in Little Gap.
Published August 19. 2014 04:00PM

A number of Carbon County residents are airing their concerns over signs posted at the covered bridge construction site in Lower Towamensing Township.

The signs warn about health risks as a result of work at the $291,126 project, which is located in the Little Gap section of the township.

But officials are reporting that the project appears to be within the guidelines set by the state.

The project calls for replacing the steel deck and sandblasting the remaining steel on the bridge and repainting it, as well as repairing any worn wooden arches and studs.

Two women, T Coen, and her friend who wishes to remain anonymous due to her profession, sent emails to the Times News regarding the issue.

One also sent a photo of signs that she and her neighbors noticed on Aug. 8.

The three signs read, "Warning: Lead work area poison. No smoking or eating," "Danger: Inorganic arsenic cancer hazard. Authorized personnel only. No smoking or eating. Respirators required in this area" and "Danger: Cadmium cancer hazard. Can cause lung and kidney disease. Authorized personnel only. Respirators required in this area."

"That immediately made me very concerned for the safety of my health, the environment, the pollution of the stream located below the bridge and my garden vegetables," one woman wrote, adding that the residents surrounding the bridge were never notified of the potential safety concerns.

"My neighbors and I still don't know whether it's safe to eat the vegetables from our gardens or drink the water from our wells," Coen added, also pointing out containers filled with the materials in question near the site.

Residents contacted the Carbon County Commissioners, who own the bridge; the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the engineers for the project.

Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek said the commissioners are aware of the concerns and are working to get to the bottom of it.

"I have conveyed to all of these people my concern that things are being done correctly and have asked our engineers to make sure of that too," he said.

"While we do not have any information on noncompliance, we would anticipate, like in all of the projects the county authorizes, that they are done in conformance with all regulations, most especially the environmental ones.

"I too am concerned with any adverse environmental issues that may have resulted from the project," O'Gurek added.

He said he expects the contractor to adhere to regulations.

"We do expect a full accounting of that so that we can help these residents get the answers to the questions they have," he said.

O'Gurek said that the board asked Michael Tirpak of Carbon Engineering, the company which represents the county, to speak with Professional Construction Contractors Inc. of Bethlehem, the company hired by the county to complete the renovations, and visit the site.

Tirpak said this morning that the signs are an EPA and DEP requirement when sandblasting the paint from the steel beams of the bridge.

He said that there aren't hazardous materials being used.

Tirpak explained that once the sandblasting was completed the waste material paint and sandblasting material were gathered in barrels, which are supposed to be fenced off until the waste can be tested and approved for disposal. It will then be sent away to be disposed of properly.

Tirpak also spoke with Keith E. Crawford, a certified industrial hygienist and president of Eagle Industrial Hygiene Associates, who was present during the sandblasting portion of the project.

"There is a requirement that air monitoring be done during the sandblasting and the contractor hired Eagle Industrial Hygiene Associates for that," Tirpak said, adding that their results will be in a report that is slated to be sent to Carbon Engineering and the commissioners today.

He indicated that Crawford believed Professional Construction Contractors was in compliance with environmental regulations and followed the guidelines set in the contract and all of the EPA regulations while working on the bridge.

DEP officials did not return calls as of today's deadline.

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