It may be a year before the full extent of damages from an intentional oil spill on the Allegheny National Forest is known.
A Bradford father and son, both former employees of Snyder Brothers, Inc., a Kittanning-based oil and gas producer, are charged in connection with the August spills along Rt. 321 in Corydon and Hamilton townships in western McKean County.
An estimated 45,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled and about one-third of it reached the nearby north branch of Chappel Fork, Indian Run and Chappel Bay on the Allegheny Reservoir.
With the clean-up now complete, the state's Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and Pennsylvania fish and game commissions are continuing to assess the environmental and aquatic damages, according to Kathy Mohney, communications specialist for the Allegheny National Forest.
Preliminary estimates were that more than 3,000 fish and several beavers died as a result of the contamination.
But Mohney said it will probably be months before the full extent of damages are known.
"The clean-up went well; now we're working on the long-term," said Mohney. "I would say that there will be an impact over the next six to twelve months."
The freeze and thaw cycle during the winter, said Mohney, could produce evidence of further soil contamination.
About one-half of the crude oil which escaped from storage tanks is believed to have been recovered by crews from Weavertown Environmental Services.
Mohney said the environmental multi-agency assessment team assembled after the spill is comprised of biologists from each state and federal agency.
According to DEP officials, Chappel Fork was one of the few waterways in Pennsylvania where trout naturally reproduce.
Meanwhile, after several postponements, the office of District Magistrate Richard Luther, Bradford, said on Thursday that preliminary hearings for the two defendants in the case are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 24.
Andrew Horton, 42, and Christopher Horton, 22, face felony counts of causing or risking a catastrophe and criminal mischief and remain in McKean County Jail in lieu of $550,000 and $500,000 bail, respectively.