- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Wal-Mart has nearly finished stabilizing a suburban Pittsburgh location where a large landslide closed a highway for two weeks nearly eight years ago.

Wal-Mart’s contractor expects to finish work in June or July, after 300 to 400 trees are planted on the hillside, which is already turning green from other vegetation planted in an effort to beautify and stabilize the site, Kilbuck Township secretary/treasurer Harry Dilmore told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1oIpKfw ).

“Pretty soon they’re going to be done. No more dust and it’s going to be green,” Dilmore said.

That will be nearly eight years after as many as 500,000 cubic yards of dirt rolled down the hillside on Sept. 19, 2006.

Nobody was hurt, but the slide eventually prompted Wal-Mart to scrap plans for a store on the 75-acre site which once housed Dixmont State Hospital, a mental institution, along Route 65.

Instead, Wal-Mart agreed to restore the site to a meadow with a more gradual slope, a decision that led to years of litigation as the company tried to recoup its costs.

“We’re pleased that this stabilization process seems to be nearing an end,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said in a statement emailed Monday. “We appreciate the working relationship we’ve had with the state Department of Environment Protection in development and implementing the plan.”

According to court documents, Wal-Mart estimated it has spent $50 million to $60 million to stabilize the site, progress that is monitored weekly by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

“We compare it to Jell-O because it won’t stay still,” DEP spokesman John Poister said. “It’s hard to control. It creeps.”

“Wal-Mart has brought in the best engineering group that they could find to do this project. There are ground monitors throughout the site and they are shoring it up,” Poister said.

Wal-Mart sued more than a dozen individuals and companies to recover its costs and that litigation had all settled about four years ago, with one exception.

That company, Senex Explosives, was accused by Wal-Mart of setting off a blast the day before that Wal-Mart blamed for the landslide. Senex argued the blast was just part of its work ordered by the contractor Wal-Mart hired to prepare the site for development, and an Allegheny County judge agreed in December.

The state Superior Court has since rejected Wal-Mart’s request to appeal after the same judge rejected Wal-Mart’s argument that it didn’t control the site at the time of the slide.

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Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, https://www.post-gazette.com

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