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Garnet Career Center building goes to Garnet High alumni; Sharon Dawes HVAC replacement approved

Garnet High alumni will take over their former school building from the Kanawha County school system, if their association achieves nonprofit status.

The school district stopped using the downtown Charleston building for adult education this past school year, transferring its programs to Dunbar’s Ben Franklin Career Center.

Garnet was a Black high school that closed in 1956, with integration. It later served as a junior high and, recently, it was called Garnet Career Center. On Thursday, the Kanawha County Board of Education sold it for $10 to the Garnet High School Alumni Association.

“I’m excited to see it continue, because it’s much-needed in our community,” board member Tracy White said.

Board member Ric Cavender, a Charleston community development nonprofit leader, offered to help the group attain nonprofit status.

Don Epps, president of the association and a 1955 Garnet High graduate, said “we’re planning to try to bring in organizations or businesses or whatever that will help us to be able to defray the costs” of things like utilities, and to generally benefit the city.

He noted that it has a gym/auditorium that can seat 400 people and a garage that used to host the automotive vocational education program.

“We want to try to do the best we can to keep the spirit of Garnet High School going with anything we do,” Epps said.

He mentioned that civil rights leader Leon Sullivan and other prominent African Americans graduated from there.

Also Thursday, the school board approved paying Charleston-based Dougherty Company Inc. about $3.1 million to replace the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system at Sharon Dawes Elementary. Andrew Crawford, Kanawha’s facilities planning executive director, said the funding comes from COVID-19 pandemic federal relief money.

Dougherty was the lowest of four bidders, according to a document the school system provided. The next-lowest was $3.3 million from Nitro Construction Services.

PHOTOS: Rolling into Charleston for Rolls on the River

Thursday evening’s Rolls on the River was a mini-feast for FestivALL goers in Charleston.

The Kanawha Boulevard event, organized by Charleston Montessori, featured pepperoni rolls and craft beer from more than a dozen vendors from around the area.

National Youth Science Foundation offers summer science camps to WV students

Last year, the National Youth Science Foundation partnered with West Virginia Science Adventures, a well-known program in Huntington, to bring its successful summer science camps to other parts of the state.

This year, the foundation is offering its Summer Stem Academies to four West Virginia counties: Kanawha, Cabell, Tucker and Fayette.

Ryan Haupt, the foundation’s director of West Virginia Programming, said 2 1/2 weeks of extracurricular educational activities per year can be worth an entire extra year’s worth of education by the time a child graduates from high school.

He said children from wealthier or urban backgrounds often have more of these opportunities, giving them a large competitive advantage after high school.

“We’re just trying to close the gap,” he said. “We want to help West Virginia students get that extra nudge toward having those extra educational experiences by the time they’ve graduated high school.”

Haupt said one of the foundation’s main goals is to reduce participation barriers to these camps. These barriers include financial struggles, lack of availability and transportation from rural areas.

This week’s Kanawha County camp was titled, “Paws, Scales and Tails.” The camp was led by Melanie Browning, a biological sciences graduate student at Marshall University, and was intended for students between fourth and ninth grade.

Students at the camp learned about various animals including amphibians, lizards, turtles, invertebrates, snakes and mammals.

Sam Hudson and Ashton Hughes were two of the children at this week’s camp.

Sam’s favorite animal is a quokka, but he said he likes all animals, including snakes and lizards. The only animals Sam doesn’t like are house centipedes, cockroaches and ants.

Ashton, on the other hand, hated snakes before his experience at the camp. He said he had been scared of the animals and thought all snakes were aggressive. The camp helped Ashton get over his fear and he even enjoyed getting to know Fluffy, Browning’s boa constrictor. Ashton said his favorite animal, though, is a capybara.

Some of the children at the camp hope to work with animals when they grow up, while others do not. Ashton, for example, wants to be a U.S. Air Force pilot.

Haupt said that, even if students choose not to pursue STEM professionally, he believes the camp will still have an impact.

“Having a generation of kids who understand a little bit more about the scientific process, and have an appreciation for the role that science plays in their everyday lives, makes for a better community of adults once they’re entering the workforce, even if they’re not doing anything to do with science in their daily life,” he said.

The National Youth Science Foundation also is continuing its flagship program, the National Youth Science Camp, virtually this year. This program typically brings students from across the country to Pocahontas County to learn about science.

The program has been running since 1963 but because of COVID-19, it has been offered virtually since 2020.

More information about the National Youth Science Foundation, including how to register for the summer science camps, is available online at www.nysf .com/w.

PA attorney general brings criminal charges against Charleston-based natural gas company for alleged environmental violations

Pennsylvania’s attorney general has announced criminal charges against a Charleston-based natural gas drilling and production company for allegedly failing to address environmental hazards at Western Pennsylvania well pads.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the charges filed in Greene County, Pennsylvania, last week against Greylock Production LLC of Charleston and Colorado-based Energy Corp. of America, which sold assets to Greylock in 2017. The charges followed a grand jury investigation.

Thirteen Energy Corp. well pads let fluids escape into soil and groundwater before they were shut down and reclaimed, affecting drinking water supplies of landowners living near the well pads, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

Shapiro’s office assumed jurisdiction over the case following a referral from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Investigators examined the use of allegedly unpermitted impoundments at unconventional well pads in Greene and Clearfield counties. Some of the impoundments leaked and contaminated at least two domestic water supplies, according to Shapiro’s office.

Greylock perpetuated environmental problems after acquiring Energy Corp. assets, according to the grand jury. Greylock operated a Greene County well pad that a Pennsylvania DEP inspector testified was built improperly, according to the grand jury presentment.

Greylock faces 20 second-degree and third-degree misdemeanor charges, with the Attorney General’s Office alleging violations of the Pennsylvania’s Solid Waste Management Act and Clean Streams Law.

The attorney general alleges that Greylock was responsible for unlawful storage or disposal of impoundment sludge or related material from a former well-site pit and disposal from leaking impoundments in Greene County.

Energy Corp. faces a third-degree felony charge of failing to comply with the Clean Streams Law and 11 third-degree misdemeanor charges for alleged violations of the Solid Waste Management Act.

Energy Corp. violated state law by operating 17 impoundments without a permit in three Greene County municipalities and one Clearfield County municipality from February 2009 through November 2017, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Greylock admitted that, in February 2020, foam from an open-topped tank blew onto the well pad and then traveled to the pad’s drainage ditches through a failed seam in the containment, according to the grand jury. The foam migrated to a sediment basin and then to a nearby stream tributary.

An inspection of the site four days later found the sediment basin overflowing and the stream laden with large foam piles, according to the presentment.

A DEP inspector discovered subcontractors spraying a material onto rock above the mouth of the stream during a subsequent inspection, according to the presentment. The subcontractors allegedly said they had been directed to spray laundry soap or fabric softener onto the rocks. A Greylock employee allegedly said the spray was a defoaming agent.

But that agent isn’t to be used in aquatic environments and was not approved for use there by the DEP, according to the grand jury. Applying the defoamer removed visual evidence of the stream impact and further affected the stream, the presentment said.

Subsequent analysis of water samples allegedly showed the presence of surfactants in the sediment basin and tributary and a drilling fluid surfactant compound in the sediment basin.

Two employees who Shapiro’s office said oversaw the projects also were criminally charged. The grand jury found that John David Sollon Jr., 52, of Greene County, directed the unlawful burial of waste at a Greene County well pad. Grand jurors said Sollon served as Energy Corp.’s pad construction foreman.

The grand jury determined that Donald Supcoe III, 36, of Morgantown, directed the transfer of water using onsite pits as centralized impoundments, directed the burial of waste at the same Greene County well pad and was involved in the spill of surfactant at another Greene County well pad. Supcoe is a former director of land operations and permitting and previously was a supervisor at Energy Corp., according to the grand jury.

Supcoe and Sollon allowed contaminants to enter into soil and groundwater in the area, the grand jury found.

“By charging the defendants and the companies who employ them, we can both seek to hold them criminally accountable for these egregious acts and send a clear message to others about how seriously we take protecting the environment and public health,” Shapiro said in a news release.

In an emailed statement, Greylock corporate affairs manager Jennifer Vieweg said the company was “tremendously disappointed” by the charges.

She contended that the charges don’t account for Greylock never using the sites in support of its operations and called the spill highlighted in the grand jury presentment “minor.”

Vieweg said Greylock would continue to work to clean up the former impoundment sites to demonstrate an “ongoing commitment to responsibly and safely develop natural resources for the good of the communities” where it operates.

The Pennsylvania DEP declined comment.

Greylock’s assets include more than 900,000 acres, 4,400 wells and 2,600 miles of pipeline, according to the presentment.