Dec. 07–CAERNARVON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — As if having a natural gas pipeline put through his property wasn’t aggravating enough, Caernarvon Township resident David Anspach is now being sued by a subcontractor on the project.
The company that drilled a horizontal hole for the pipeline that runs through Anspach’s property is suing him for money it is owed by the primary contractor on the project, Welded Construction.
Sunoco, owner of the pipeline, stopped paying Welded after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited it for clean streams law violations in Lebanon County in June.
A call to Welded’s phone number was rerouted to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy hotline. No one answered at the toll-free number.
United Piping Inc., the Minnesota-based subcontractor, in a letter to Anspach, says it has not been paid by Welded and is going after him, his neighbors and even the Twin Valley School District, for a total of $15 million. United alleges the $15 million figure is based on tax and other benefits residents and the district derived from the pipeline project.
George E. Pallas, the Philadelphia lawyer representing United, who sent the legal notice to Anspach and others in Berks, was unavailable Thursday afternoon. Attempts to reach the school district for comment were unsuccessful.
Anspach, 35, said that he’s been in a holding pattern since receiving the letter from United on Nov. 8. The letter says it was giving Anspach notice of United’s intent to file a so-called mechanic’s lien in Berks County Court against his property within 30 days. Anspach said he’s not sure how much United expects to get from him personally.
Berks County Prothonotary Jonathan A. Del Collo, who oversees the filing of all civil court cases, said that as of Thursday afternoon, United Piping had not filed a mechanic’s lien against Anspach. United has until Monday, when the 30-day notice period ends, to file an action.
State Sen. Judy Schwank said the issue of mechanic’s liens against property owners came up during a telephone town hall meeting she held with local residents and public officials that focused on pipeline-related issues. More than 1,000 residents took part in the event. On Nov. 27, Schwank sent a letter to PUC Chairwoman Gladys Brown asking her to investigate “the plight of several property owners in my district who have had mechanic’s liens slapped on their private property by a subcontractor.”
Nils Hagen-Fredericksen, spokesman for the PUC, said the state agency charged with regulating utilities that do business in Pennsylvania, is on the case.
“The legal and technical staff at the PUC are reviewing the public concerns about mechanic’s liens that have been raised by Sen. Schwank,” Hagen-Fredericksen said.
Anspach said he sent Schwank a copy of the legal notice he got in the mail.
“The PUC wasn’t familiar with it, but they are looking into it,” Schwank said.
Schwank said the notices did not sit well with her.
“They didn’t ask for a pipeline to be put through their properties, for heaven’s sake,” Schwank said. “The homeowners feel very put upon. Some have lost water volume or quality.”
She said she also is considering legislative remedies if the issue is not resolved.
“This is egregious,” Schwank said. “The homeowners see red when they get these letters.”
Anspach, who is manager of Reading’s wastewater treatment plant, said he was struck by the irony of his situation.
“We didn’t fire the contractor,” Anspach said. “We didn’t design the pipeline. We didn’t build the pipeline and yet we still are left with this bill on our doorsteps.”
And along with the suit he filed against Sunoco Pipeline LP claiming that drilling to install its natural gas pipeline tainted his well, the letter he received from United Piping is making him no fan of the players in the project.
“I was not an opponent of the pipeline, but they keep loading me up with these things and are almost forcing me to not like them,” he said.
Contact Dan Kelly: 610-371-5040 or email@example.com.
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