BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A proposed Rutter’s convenience store and gas station in Pinecroft has one area conservation group concerned about the impact the 20-acre development could have on a high-quality trout stream and adjacent wetlands.
“This is not a convenience store, it’s a truck stop,” said Gary Miller, a member of the Little Juniata River Association. The non-profit group is concerned about run-off from the site harming not only the surrounding wetlands and streams but also impacting the river for miles downstream.
The group will be sharing their concerns Thursday night at a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection public hearing on the developer’s application for a required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permit. The event will be held at the Pinecroft Volunteer Fire Company at 6:30 p.m.
The location of the proposed Rutter’s is just off Interstate 99 at Pinecroft at the intersection of Pleasant Valley Boulevard and Sabbath Rest Road. The site is close to Sandy Run, a high-quality cold-water stream, and its tributaries, which feed into the Little Juniata River and are adjacent to exceptional value classified wetlands owned by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
“Without this cold-water source, we would not have the high-quality cold-water trout stream that we have,” said Bill Anderson, President of the Little Juniata River Association.
It’s just downstream from the proposed Rutter’s site and the 50-degree temperature water from Sandy Run flows into the much warmer Little Juniata River, which in the summer climbs into the 80s. Since brown trout are cold-water fish, Sandy Run is essential to the health of fish for miles downstream, all the way into Huntingdon County, Anderson pointed out.
“The next five miles downstream from here has been listed by Fish and Boat Commission as high-quality cold wild brown trout water,” Anderson said. “That would vanish if we impact Sandy Run in any real way with this impervious surface and the stormwater that results from that.”
Gary Miller, a lifelong member of LJRA, said along with the stormwater concerns, the limestone geology at the site also raises concerns for groundwater contamination as well traffic issues, noise pollution, trash and everything that comes to what Miller called a “truck stop”
“It’s over 50 parking spaces for trucks, so we feel this should be addressed as a truck stop and not a convenience store,” Miller said.
The underground gas storage tanks with potential spills and leaks, along with fluids from the parking area and how stormwater would be filtered before it goes into the Sandy Run, its tributaries and then the Little Juniata, are all things the group wants to see addressed better, Miller said.
Miller pointed out that while the current proposed project is only 20 acres, the total parcel it sits on is 120 acres. Development on that land will likely follow and it’s unclear if the current plans account for that much run-off or if what is planned could handle a heavy rain event.
Anderson stressed the group isn’t against development in Antis Township.
“We see that appropriate development is important and meaningful – we just feel development of this large limestone hill outcropping where Rutter’s proposes to build a truck stop with sites for 50-odd trucks isn’t appropriate,” he said.
When asked for comment on the project, Rutter’s spokesman Alison Hummel wrote, “As a matter of policy, we do not discuss the status of ongoing projects.”
According to DEP, anyone who wants to offer testimony at the public hearing should register with John Repetz, community relations coordinator for DEP’s Southcentral Region, at (717)705-4904 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Oral comments are limited to five minutes per person. Relinquishing time to other speakers will be prohibited, and groups are asked to designate one speaker. Registration is only required to speak but isn’t needed to simply attend the hearing.
Written comments on this application or the draft NPDES permit are also being accepted until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16, and may be submitted to RA-EPWW-SCRO@pa.gov or mailed to the SCRO, Waterways and Wetlands Program, 909 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110-8200. To assist with mail routing, it is requested that mailed comments contain the following on the envelope: “Comments on Rutter Store #82, PAD070014.”