Since there are political folks reading this blog to keep abreast of what's going on here at Watermark Farm here is a copy of my letter to the County Bridge Supervisor and all the various public officials involved in Chester County Bridge #21.
If anyone knows which department should be contacted (EPA, Dept. of Natural Resource or Army Corps of Engineers) about the bog turtles leaving their homes, I would be more than grateful. The bidders tromped through their nesting habitat and I am afraid they may be leaving their protected area that we had set up more than a decade ago. I did an online search via Google and am not coming up with a direct contact link for who's in charge of their habitats and status beyond the fact they are on the Endangered Species List and pretty pictures of the tiny turtles.
To all concerned....
I humbly request that you remove me from this mailing list. The stress of facing the loss of my future business, financial security and employment is taking quite a toll on my life. The bridge will go forward without my input and consent regardless of being 'informed' of what is going on on a daily basis. The long term environmental impact and destruction of local fauna and potential poisoning of thousands of people is also not an easy burden to bear.
In the meantime, I will continue to try to manage the damage that has been done to our livestock and allow you all to have the concerns of what is going on with this project from the legal, environmental and sociological aspects. Good luck and please leave me to run my business for as long as I have it.
However, there are some day to day management solutions that will help prevent injury and legal matters. When the project is decided and plans are laid to have more people entering into our pastures - be sure to notify me in a timely manner so the young horses can be removed from the dangerous situation that will be created. A 2-3 week window would be ideal so we can create a different living arrangement for the horses. Failure to notify me of any inspection or persons entering the area where there are horses would be quite unfortunate as the animals are now being inspected and current condition is documented daily. The $60,000 loss of one youngster has also been documented by several outside professionals in the equine community. Perhaps it is a good thing that he was one of the least valuable animals in that field...the others had been appraised for far great amounts. It is horrible as it was an easily preventable injury but what's done is done. The irony is that that particular bidder refused to give me his name, business affiliation or card, so I suppose his conscience is clear when he goes to sleep at night.
My final questions involve liability and responsibility.
- What liability releases are available to protect the landowners from any resulting injuries to persons operating on or affected by the Bridge 21 project? There are several species of snakes inhabiting the area around the bridge that are not something that are recommended for personal interaction. Copperheads, water moccasins and cotton mouth snakes have been sighted since I have lived here. Leeches are very common as well.
- Is the area that will be tested considered County property and the liability is assumed by the county for any and all injuries, illness or damage to people, environment and/or livestock?
- If there is an additional environmental disturbance of the area that the bog turtles inhabit and they are forced into relocating, who is considered responsible? It is currently fenced off but the bridge footer is less than 10' away from where the spring nests were. I have seen 2 turtles since the inspectors strolled in and around the bridge but the little turtles have not been in the usual locations. I fear they were disturbed and have begun the march to a new location.
- Are any of the environmental team(s) prepared to deal with the mercury and other toxic debris that are likely to be found around the bridge footers and immediate area? The stream does feed the Octorara Reservoir and subsequently the City of Chester's water supply, so it is a concern of mine on a personal level. I would not be able to live with myself if others were to become ill from something that could have been prevented. The 2000 census had the population of Chester at 36,854. That is 36,854 souls nagging at my conscience for what may be lurking beneath the topsoil, not to mention the 100's of cattle (both dairy and beef cows) and other livestock that drink from the stream or the people who have wells that feed off of the local groundwater. The previous inhabitants of this area who operated the papermill had no idea what environmental impacts their actions would have when they were producing manila paper.
- Are there liability release forms available for our clients to sign once the construction phase of this project has been decided? Injuries are rather predictable (in that they happen) when working around horses, so I want to be prepared for the legal disaster that will ensue once construction begins. Our current liability waiver does not address any construction projects and as this construction operates under the auspices of the County - the liability rests outside of Watermark Farm and its agents. If there are no liability waiver forms available, can you please provide me with the contact information of the legal department for construction projects?
Please do not continue to involve me in the back and forth discussions. I have tried to provide you all with a simple list of concerns that keep me awake at night.
Eleanor M. Rawle
136 Watermark Road
Oxford, PA 19363 USA