11 Feb Environmentalists Worry About Impact Of Bridge Collapse On Frick Park
KDKA – Two weeks after the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse, environmental groups are working to make sure all the debris left behind doesn’t destroy the environment of Frick Park, including the creek at the bottom of the ravine.
Groups like UpstreamPgh have already noticed some changes in the water and crews are working to minimize any damage.
“It’s just an area where people live, going down into Frick Park walking their dogs. Just being able to escape the daily grind,” Executive Director Mike Hiller said.
Two weeks later and tons of concrete and steel sit in the area. Hiller said they’ve already noticed more sediment in the water downstream from the collapse site. The Fern Hollow Creek dumps into Nine Mile Run which flows to the Monongahela River.
“It’s no longer functioning like it should. That affects everything downstream,” Holler said over Zoom.
According to PennDOT, who is leading the cleanup efforts, the state DEP approved an emergency waterway permit at the beginning of the month. The contractor is expected to finish erosion and sediment controls this week after meeting with environmental leaders last week.
“The debris is pretty heavy and it’s going to be an extensive cleanup for some time,” Pittsburgh District 5 Councilman Corey O’Connor said.
Councilman O’Connor said crews don’t yet know the total scope of the damage done to Fern Hollow Creek. As restoration begins, the hope is to improve the environment.
“When you’re doing the base of the bridge, you can also do some good for the park as well,” Councilman O’Conner said Friday.
However, right now, it’s not yet clear how that will happen.
“Do we dredge a little bit more? Do we clean it up? Do we add more width to the creek? Things like that I think will be discussed,” he told KDKA.
Councilman O’Connor also isn’t sure how long it’ll take, but Hiller said time is of the essence.
He said the longer the bridge rubble is in the ravine, the more it disturbs nature. He points to neighboring Nine Mile Run, which took 15 years to become what it is now.
“The answer is a long time. It’s not going to just transform overnight once the bridge is complete,” Hiller said.
Hiller and O’Connor both agree the beauty of the Fern Hollow Creek needs to be preserved as the new bridge is built.
The DEP said in a statement, “Work performed near the stream is subject to permit conditions to ensure that the removal and rebuilding projects abide by Pennsylvania’s environmental laws and regulations and appropriate environmental precautions are taken.”