Pennsylvania DEP issues initial denial of Elcon application for facility

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Elcon Recycling Services, LLC was dealt another impediment in their efforts to construct a hazardous waste treatment facility in Falls Township, Pennsylvania, after the state’s Department of Environmental Protection  recently issued a notice of intent to deny the company’s application.

The decision came from the DEP on May 15 in their initial “draft” denial of the application, which was preceded by a 10-month technical review of materials submitted by Elcon’s proposal to build a facility that would potentially process between 150,000 and 210,000 tons of chemical and pharmaceutical waste each year, on a plot of land in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex.

The state’s DEP officials said that they found a number of “outstanding deficiencies that remain unaddressed to DEP’s satisfaction.”

“After a rigorous review of the application, supplemental materials submitted by the company, and input from the public, DEP will not approve this application in its current form,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a statement. “Unless the company can address these outstanding deficiencies, DEP will have no choice but to move forward with a full application denial.”

Although the initial decision by the DEP to deny the application in its second phase of the permitting process serves as a positive note to opponents of the proposed facility, a notice of intent to deny is not a final or appealable action by the DEP.

The DEP officials said that this is only a draft decision, so the applicant may comment on the notice and submit materials to address the deficiencies cited by DEP. There is also an opportunity to the public for comment and review. Officials said that the comment period will open on June 1 with a publication and will close on July 15.

Officials said that all comments should be emailed to [email protected]., and that all comments received during the 45-day period will be reviewed and addressed in a public document.

The Bucks Protect Our Water & Air (POWA) organization, a local group that aims to improve the air quality and preserve the Delaware River in Bucks County and surrounding communities, have been frequent attendees at public meetings designated for the Elcon project, issued a statement following the recent decision from the DEP to encourage continuous support for denial of the application.

“We caution you to keep in mind that this decision is unfortunately not final, yet, and Elcon can still submit changes and possibly win,” Bucks POWA officials said.

Currently in its second phase of the application process, Elcon’s proposed waste treatment center slotted in the Bucks County area, is located only several miles away from Bordentown and Florence and could potentially pose multiple risks to nearby residents.

According to the company’s submitted plans, more than 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.

Multiple concerns from opponents of the plan include on-site accidents and hazardous spills, which could leak harmful materials into the Delaware River since the facility is slated to use the waterway, and potential air pollution from the facility given strong northwest and westerly winds in the region, which Bordentown municipal officials said could blow toward the area.

Not only is pollution a foremost concern for opponents, the proposed site plans raised some apprehensions at a special meeting hosted by the Falls Township Board of Supervisors on April 30. The board members prompted a series of questioning toward three Elcon representatives s present at the meeting, and pointed 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.

Following questioning and testimony between the board members and Elcon’s reps as well as a public comment period at the April meeting, the board unanimously made a motion to deny the application and passed it. Although board member Robert Harvie Jr. noted that their decision had no final bearings on the application’s permitting process, it served as the township official’s statement to the DEP that they were not in favor of the proposed facility.

DEP officials said that the department is currently continuing its review of two additional applications from Elcon for air quality and stormwater.

A copy of the hazardous waste application and deficiencies noted by DEP, as well as correspondence on the project, opportunities for public participation, and additional applications under review can be found at www.dep.pa.gov/elcon.