A $2,700 fine was levied after the contaminants filtered into the Little Cedar Creek during excavation and tree-cutting work.
Allentown, Pa., was slapped this year with a $2,700 fine for excavation and tree-cutting work at the Allentown Municipal Golf Course that allowed sediment and pollutants to filter into the Little Cedar Creek, the Allentown Morning Call Reported.
The fine, paid in June, was levied by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and stemmed from an April project on the golf course, the Morning Call reported. Course employees cleared 400 feet of a stream bank and regraded the area, destroying work done in 2005 to restore and protect the bank, according to an inspection report filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Additionally, a large embankment along Trexler Road was disturbed, creating unwanted “erosion gullies,” the Morning Call reported. Subsequently, mud washed down a hillside and across a cart path, the inspection report states.
The Lehigh County Conservation District, which inspected the course for the DEP, cited the city on April 16 after it was found to be violating four sections of state law, the Morning Call reported. The violations included discharging sediment or pollutants into state waters, and creating the potential for more pollution, according to the report.
After the citation, golf course officials were required to submit a sediment and erosion control plan to the conservation district and take action on that plan, the Morning Call reported. But during a follow-up inspection in May, the conservation district again cited the golf course for failing to control the situation. The stream bank was not permanently stabilized, the report noted, nor was the area along Trexler Road mulched—a requirement until vegetation grows back. Additionally, a soil pile kept near the stream was not stabilized as a previous report required.
Allentown’s own Stormwater Bureau also cited the city-owned golf course in May, the Morning Call reported. In a letter to Lindsay Parks, who was then the Director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, Craig Messinger, the city’s head of Public Works, said the work on the golf course violated three city ordinances as well as the city’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.
Messinger’s letter, made public in response to a Morning Call right-to-know request, also noted that golf course staff was briefed on the history of the creek before the work was undertaken on the golf course.
The Little Cedar Creek, which flows through the course, was designated “impaired” in 1996, according to the letter. A maximum sediment load standard was set for the creek in 2004, the Morning Call reported.
Sediment pollution causes $16 billion in environmental damage annually across the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sediment in stream beds leads to declines in fish population. The debris disrupts the natural food chain by destroying the habitat where the smallest stream organisms live.
The Little Cedar Creek is considered a high-quality water source and is home to cold water and migratory fish, according to e-mails released by the DEP. The stream naturally produces trout, those e-mails state.
Sediment also can increase the cost of treating drinking water and can result in odor and taste problems.
The Little Cedar Creek drains into a series of creeks, including the Little Lehigh Creek, a source of local drinking water, the Morning Call reported. The Little Lehigh Creek eventually drains into the Lehigh River, a backup source for Allentown’s drinking water.
David McGuire, a former Allentown councilman and environmentalist, told the Morning Call that removing the plants along a water source increases the possibility for insecticides, fertilizer and other pollutants to enter the stream.
“The general rule is don’t have any plan to dig up stream banks or things leading to stream banks without a fairly intensive study,” McGuire said.
Golf course crews have been removing trees on the Allentown Municipal course over the last few years to create better vistas and to restore the course to how it was originally designed, Golf Course Superintendent Chris Reverie told The Morning Call in 2017.
Reverie reported to the Allentown City Council that the golf course was making moves to be more environmentally friendly by removing pesticides and fertilizers. Operators are also looking at creating pollinator gardens as habitats for declining species, he said.
The City Council’s parks and recreation committee was not briefed on the environmental violations on the course, Chairwoman Cynthia Mota told the Morning Call. Neither was the city’s Environmental Advisory Council, according to Chairperson Arundhati Khanwalkar.
“The EAC’s liaison, Joseph Hoffman, had monthly meetings scheduled with the Department of Parks and Recreation, at which this type of matter should have been discussed,” Khanwalkar said. “It is our sincere hope that the new director of the department will be more transparent and collaborative with us than her predecessor was.”
Taylor was terminated as Director of Parks and Recreation in July. Her replacement, Karen El-Chaar, was confirmed in October, according to the Morning Call.
The Morning Call requested records related to the citations on the golf course in September from Allentown, the Pennsylvania DEP and the conservation district. As of September 5, “enforcement action” against the city was still pending, according to e-mails circulated among several DEP employees.
Mike Moore, the city’s spokesman, told the Morning Call that the city’s parks department complied with “corrective action remedies,” but Athat llentown has more to do to be in full compliance.
“Golf course personnel have been instructed to communicate with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Allentown Stormwater Bureau to ensure future projects are in full compliance with all requirements,” Moore said.