Digital Exclusive: Montage Mountain Resorts suing water company over machinery damage

Digital Exclusive

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Montage Mountain Resorts is suing Pennsylvania American Water Company for $34 million after they say pellets used in the company’s water filtration system have made their way into a reservoir used by the ski resort and caused damages to the resort’s snow-making machinery.

In the lawsuit, filed at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, Montage Mountain claims that a spill of water clarification pellets occurred at some point during the summer of 2019 and that the Pennsylvania American Water Company admitted the pellets were coming from their equipment near Lake Scranton. The resort says these pellets were unknowingly sucked into snow blowers which blocked nozzels and caused issues with snow quality.

“When those nozzles get clogged up, the water can’t get through. What happens is if it’s 10, 15, 20 degrees whatever, now the water freezes. So now we’ve got a situation where we can’t address it the way we normally would which is you take a torch, you heat it up, you melt the ice and you know you’re able to get back in business,” Charles Jefferson, owner of Montage Mountain Resorts, said. 

Eyewitness News visited PA-Reservoir 5 which is under a lease by Montage Mountain Resorts from the Pennsylvania American Water Company. A large number of pellets were seen in the ice.

While American Water Company declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, a spokesperson for the company said pellets are used in the water filtration process.

“The pellets are part of our clarifier media at the Lake Scranton Water Treatment Plant,” Susan Turcmanovich told Eyewitness News. “Clarifiers are part of the water treatment process that removes solid particulates from the water. The pellets themselves are buoyant plastic beads made of NSF-certified (safe for use in drinking water) linear low density polyethylene (plastic) resin.”

Central to the lawsuit, is Montage Mountain Restorts’ claim that they notified Pennsylvania American Water Company about the occurrence of the clarifying pellets in their reservoir and that nothing was done to remediate the situation.

“The defendants have known about the pellet release for over a year, but have failed to take necessary action to stop the problem,” the lawsuit reads, in part.

Montage Mountain Resorts claims there were over 600 separate incidents which caused damage to machinery. Now, the only solution may be to dredge the reservoir and remove the pellets which they say will cost a minimum of $1.5 million.

“It’s not a hostile situation. We just wanna, we want to have a dialogue. We want to have our problems taken care of,” Jefferson said. 

Montage Mountain Resorts is seeking to be awarded $8.5 million in direct and consequential damages as well as $25.5 million in punitive damages from the American Water Company.

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