Proposed waste treatment project turned down in Pennsylvania

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Elcon Recycling Services LLC’s continuous efforts to construct a hazardous waste treatment facility in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex of Falls Township in Pennsylvania suffered a setback when the Township’s Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected the proposed project.

The decision came from the supervisors after three and a half hours of discussion between the board members and representatives from Elcon’s law firm, Fox Rothschild, LLP, along with a public comment period at a special meeting on April 30 at Pennsbury High School’s Keller Hall in Fairless Hills, Pa.

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Elcon, a hazardous waste processing company, is currently applying for permits to build a treatment facility in the Bucks County area, located across the border and miles away from Bordentown and Florence.

According to the company’s submitted plans, up to 194,000 tons of hazardous waste could be potentially imported annually by truck or rail, and burn more than a million pounds of waste a day using thermal oxidation.

Opponents of the plan worry that any on-site accidents could cause hazardous materials to make their way into the Delaware River, since the facility is slated to use the waterway. In addition, opponents worried that any of the approximately 17-25 trucks transporting waste throughout the region each day could potentially get into an accident at the treatment facility, leaking hazardous waste into the river, which serves approximately 8 million people.

Given strong northwest and westerly winds in the region, Bordentown municipal officials have said that air pollution from the facility would blow toward the area.

Opponents also worry that waste transported by rail is expected to travel within 200 feet of wetlands and waterways connected to the Delaware River. Any spill or accident could result in the waste contaminating the Delaware River.

With an intense series of questioning led by board supervisors Jeff Boraski and Jeffrey Dence lodged toward three Elcon reps present at the April meeting, the two officials were adamant about the site plans submitted by the waste facility’s firm, pointing out multiple discrepancies with the plans such as the lack of safe escape routes for first responders and facility workers in the event of an on-site emergency.

Although Kim Freimuth, a representative from Fox Rothschild, assured the board members that Elcon has made multiple efforts to ensure the safety precautions of the site’s pollution emissions as well as its operations in the event of an on-sit accident, the board members held their reservations.

“Elcon has also committed, voluntarily, to perform various enhancements at the site that go well beyond the state federal regulations,” Freimuth said.

Freimuth said that Elcon’s professionals performed “sophisticated spill modeling” tests at the site to replicate an emergency accident and noted that the the model concluded, “there would be no impact on public water supply in any of these hypothetical spill-scenarios.”

Although the Elcon reps said they remained committed to the project and were willing to work with the township’s consultants to address all of their comments, they were met with little oblige from the Falls Supervisors.

“After reviewing the plans, I do not think that this site fits,” Boraski said.

“You keep saying you are willing to comply with the fire marshal’s issues, but when you look at how tight this plan is – without adding another fire lane, I don’t see how [Elcon] can do it,” Dence said. “You need emergency response trucks to be able to move freely from the entire site without being blocked anywhere […] I don’t think your site fits in this space.”

Elcon officials said that no industrial waste water from the facility would discharge into any water body, including the Delaware River. Officials said that rain water falling into the containment areas will be captured into the industrial waste water treatment process. Any other rain water on the property would be collected into a storm water basin which discharges to the onsite wetlands which flow to Biles Creek and then the Delaware River.

After the vote to deny the project, supervisor chairman Robert Harvie, Jr. noted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) still has its own review of Elcon’s applications and doesn’t have to take into account the township’s decision.

“The DEP has yet to rule on this,” Harvie Jr. said. “They do not have to take what we have done into account, but we believe it’s wise if they do.”

Not only was the project met with disapproval from the supervisors, Bordentown City Deputy Mayor John Brodowski who has been a common presence and outspoken voice at meetings regarding the Elcon project, expressed his stance on the proposed site as well during the public comment period that evening.

“This has been an ongoing issue for about five years now,” Brodowski said. “[Elcon] has had ample time to get this right.

“I think [Elcon] took a look at what is already here and thought it would be easy, but the residents and people in this area have shown by hanging out until a quarter to 10 p.m. tonight that they do not want this put here,” he added.

Upon his comments toward the proposed site, Brodowski urged the Elcon reps to take into account the continuous pushback from local officials and residents.

“Respect the decision. Let’s not drag this out with lawsuit after lawsuit,” he said. “We are not going away. No matter what happens after tonight, respect the decision from the supervisors.”

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