PFBC officer discusses environmental issues
BY KEVIN WOODRUFF
As a part of the Northeast PA Conservation Districts of Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties Northeast Regional Contractors Workshop on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officer Kadin Thompson took some time to talk to a group about environmental issues.
Thompson, a Waterways Conservation Officer (WCO) who covers Wyoming County and parts of Susquehanna County, addressed a group of contractors about the do’s and don’ts of building around streams, waterways and ponds.
He said that the Department of Environmental Protection was the permit issuing agency, and that his job as a law enforcement officer was to make sure contractors have a permit and are not disturbing or polluting waterways.
The law that Thompson enforces is Title 30, which has two main sections, Sect. 2502 – Disturbance of Waterways and Sect. 2504 – Pollution of Waterways.
“In the law it says that people have a right to clean and air pure water,” Thompson said,
He noted that it’s important not to disturb the stream, stream bed or fish habitat.
Those who do can face penalties anywhere from a fine to being charged with a third degree misdemeanor.
“These kinds of things happen every day,” Thompson said. “I guarantee I could go out and find three people disturbing a waterway today.”
Thompson said that common infractions to the law include digging up streams on private property, chemical spills and dumping mud into streams.
“I’m a big advocate of private property rights,” Thompson said. “But if you damage a stream, even on your own property, you have to understand that it’s part of a bigger ecosystem.”
Thompson said that in his 14 years serving the PFBC, most of the time workers have permits, but are not adequately following them.
“There is a right way and a wrong way to go about it,” Thompson said. “The vast majority of workers are following the permits to some degree. But, if you see something happening you have to stop and do something about it.”
If charged with a misdemeanor, Thompson said it involves fingerprints and court proceedings.
However, Thompson noted that most cases are handled civilly, but do contain monetary fines.
Mike Sames, a senior civil engineer from the Department of Environmental Protection, also talked during the breakout session on Wednesday.
Sames discussed the permitting aspect of working near streams, waterways and ponds.
He said that people need to obtain permits for working in waterways, floodways and wetlands.
He noted that some people don’t realize that even flood runoff courses for streams can be defined as a waterway.
Sames noted that if it has a defined bed and banks, it can be natural or artificial and run intermittently or perennially, it can be defined as a watercourse.
“It doesn’t matter if the waterway is on private property,” Sames said. “If you’re working in that area you need a permit.”
He noted that these issues are not black and white, and not to be afraid to call DEP.
Sames also outlined the types of permits that DEP gives out. They include, waivers (don’t need a permit), general permits (small projects), emergency permits (remedial work) and individual permits (large projects).
He said that general permit No. 11 is used the most frequently, and can authorize just about any project.
For more information from the PFBC, contact 477-5717, and for more from DEP, contact Sames at 826-2511.