Sometimes you just have to grin from ear to ear. Michael Noone, the current First Assistant DA in Chester County PA has announced intent to bring a civil public nuisance action against #suNOco / #EnergyTransfer regarding the construction and operation of the Mariner East pipeline project.
Sunoco has 60 days to take corrective action and if the nuisance has not been corrected, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office will bring a civil action in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas alleging actions both past and present that create a public nuisance and which should be abated, restrained, or such other relief granted.
But hey you know, these pipelines and pipeline companies are just misunderstood, right? But no worries, certain state reps will just take more tours with pipeline companies and ignore their constituents, right?
Thank goodness for people who care enough to stick their necks out for what is right.
I am starting with P.K. Ditty’s video of today. It captures everything. And everything includes the fact that in my opinion today was just a photo op for Governor Tom Wolf and some of his lady supporters in Harrisburg who ummm, shall we say aren’t so beloved by their Chester County and Delaware County constituents at present over pipelines? Come on now ladies, you know who you are and I even like two of you personally (the third I do not respect at all) but I think all three of you (Democrats incidentally) are doing a crap job of representing residents on pipelines, alrighty? Don’t be like Tom Wolf’s Political Andrews Sisters (sorry not sorry, feeling politically sarcastic today.)
This was total BS what this event became. We all know it did not start that way correct?
Here is what went out August 22 from two local state reps which did NOT announce today, but I think sets a stage of political puffery:
Translation? GIANT PUBLICITY STUNT. I am hearing they are great at dodge ball with residents? Because this is really about what? Perhaps it is really about Governor Tom Wolf getting them re-elected so they can support the fakakta thing called Restore PA, AKA another hall pass for pipelines at the expense of residents?
Fakakta means something silly or ridiculous and a a word used to describe something that is not working well or is really crap. (It’s also a great description to apply to pipelines.)
State Senators Andy Dinniman and Daylin Leach listen to the residents on pipelines and they care. State Representatives Carolyn Committa and Kristine Howard showed up and I don’t quite no what else to say except I am massively disappointed in both of them over this. People are asking if Katie Muth actually showed up? And some other State Senator was there apparently. His name is Tim Kearney. Daylin Leach was there so one would have thought State Senator Katie Muth would have at least shown up to say how awful he is or something? (She’s good at that, right?)
Today in my opinion was yet another GIANT PUBLICITY STUNT. (And I am not pointing fingers at the State Senators who were there, to be clear.) Affected residents wanted to sit down and talk to our Governor. OUR GOVERNOR. AS IN IS SUPPOSED TO REPRESENT PENNSYLVANIANS EQUALLY. BUT DOES HE? HA! THAT WILL BE THE DAY….
Residents didn’t ask to stand in the heat and basically do the whole Oliver Twist “Please sir, I want some more” and beg for freaking gruel, did they?
With regard to the timing and planning of today’s political gymnastics or mini-circus, I found out this morning Wolf would be at the Giant parking lot on Boot Road in West Chester at 2 pm today. I heard certain media were informed by the Governor personally at some other appearance in Horsham this morning. But other media weren’t told? How does that work exactly? Word of mouth? No real press release? Top secret public location? Spy vs. Spy? I had a LOT of friends there. Friends who are directly affected by Energy Transfer/SuNOco/Mariner East Pipelines every. damn. day.
I don’t need to do a complete recitation of the problems with this pipeline, they are well known and well documented at this point, aren’t they? As human beings, we are at RISK. Our families are at RISK. Our wells are at RISK. Our properties are at RISK. Our elected officials and public officials and agencies know this and yet….MOST DO NOTHING, correct?
Today was a scripted appearance. Is it true that even media were restricted on questions or they weren’t supposed to ask questions? Were babies kissed? Did Lot’s wife turn into a pillar of salt? Oy vey so many questions I have and my political sarcasm cup runneth over today….but I digress.
My friend Ginny Kerslake, a pipeline affected resident speaking with Governor Wolf
I spoke with my friend Ginny after and this is what she said:
“Several residents had the chance to tell their stories of how Mariner East construction has impacted them and their neighbors and share their concerns for the safety of their families and communities, asking Governor Wolf to halt Mariner East.”
I also touched base with my friend Tom Casey who had this to say about this afternoon:
“I expected nothing less than what happened today. The Governor listened to impacted residents, but didn’t hear them. I have also never met a politician where you literally have to negotiate the terms of a handshake.”
I wonder what that certain East Goshen Supervisor was doing there? He is certainly not halting the march of Adelphia Gateway is he? BUT he sure do love his sound bytes right? Dude, if you wish to be a man of the people then you have to actually be a man of the people, ok?
And speaking of East Goshen what is with the two mass mailing a couple of days apart of Dear Occupant letters coming from SuNOco but says it is from East Goshen? It has to do with the 24 hour continual drilling and they will apparently pay for people to leave their homes while they do it? Sounds like quite the offer so what happens when no residents are around to bear witness?
I find today’s event to be a study in confusion and contradiction. So was it just supposed to be a lovey dovey photo op that went bad?
The first media article I am sharing is by Bill Rettew from The Daily Local with Pete Bannan photos. (And yes, I do pay for online subscriptions to the Daily Local, Philadelphia Inquirer, and The New York Times.)
Gov. Tom Wolf told anti-pipeline activists on Thursday that he is not going to stop construction or operation of Sunoco’s Mariner East pipelines.
At a rare face-to-face meeting with opponents at a pipeline construction site in East Goshen Township, Chester County, Wolf was repeatedly urged to shut down the pipeline until public safety can be assured.
But he disappointed activists by stating clearly that he would not do so.
Eve Miari, an organizer of the event, said Wolf’s statement was the first time he had gone on the record saying clearly that he would not shut down the line because of safety concerns…..Six people who live near the cross-state pipeline, plus a supervisor for East Goshen Township, took turns pressing that case to Wolf….“My question to you now, Governor Wolf, is will you halt Mariner East now?” Kerslake said. “We do not have a credible and practical plan to protect us in the event of a leak.”….Rosemary Fuller, a resident of nearby Middletown Township, said her private well has been contaminated with fecal coliform and e-coli as a result of the recent horizontal directional drilling near her house.
Fuller tearfully told Wolf that the contaminated water creates more problems for her husband, who has cancer, and her son, who has a compromised immune system.
Pennsylvania Politics is in full flower again. At the expense of residents. Bottom line? ANY politician that supports pipelines over people needs to GO and that includes the ones who never answer directly, don’t really return phone calls and play possum, and who act all supportive when it is most self-serving.
Of course Tom Wolf won’t shut down the pipelines.
Yes I am disgusted. Today at the end of the day was COMPLETE B.S.
UPDATE 5/3/2019: Today I received a US Mail reply to my Right To Know submitted on 4/23/2019 to PennDOT which was identical to my requests of East Goshen and East Whiteland.
This is why people believe in conspiracy theories. What any of us have asked for should be simple, right? We live in one of the two municipalities contemplating intersection changes , we live in Chester County, this has SORT OF been being discussed mostly out of the public view for a couple of years, right? (I can’t say intersection improvements any longer since two out of the three parties seem hell bent on hiding from the public what is going on and why?)
Well as per the response from PennDOT well, they also want additional time to contemplate their bureaucratic navels…letter very similar to East Whiteland’s response so I guess this is going to be a thing?
I am thinking it already is a “thing” since someone I think of as a total social media blowhard (they are not someone I would chose to have in my circle in real life and removed them from a social media group for essentially harassing and haranguing myself and anyone else who didn’t agree with his limited view of the world and life as we know it) has been bandying about my name in vain again.
Apparently myself and others concerned about this because a roundabout/circle WOULD have to mean eminent domain are essentially drama queens and everyone should remain calm and informed. He claims to be Master of the Universe and to have been having conversations with “one of the players”? My, my, my is it one of the “players” resisting a Right to Know? Sure hope not because that might be a problem if they won’t discuss this with all residents but will discuss it with select residents? He also says he personally will see that this project gets the attention it deserves. Excellent, right?
I will note that I did not originate discussion on this topic, neighbors closer to him did.
Here is what PennDOT said:
UPDATE 4/27/2019: Today I signed for certified mail from East Whiteland Township regarding my right to know request on the proposed yet somehow TOP SECRET intersection improvement plans for King Rd and Sproul/N.Chester/352 which may or may not end up being a circle or roundabout which in turn could mean eminent domain to gather the necessary land. I have redacted personal data from the Right to Know, but basically they sent me BUPKIS. While I appreciate the timeliness of their response (because PENNdot has completely ignored me), I do not understand how East Goshen can send me LOTS of information, and East Whiteland nothing…BUPKIS?
I also had a comment to this blog which I forwarded onto PENNdot for comment and …well…BUPKIS… I am finding this whole situation curiouser and curiouser.
And people feel the municipalities are to blame for the intersection issues because of all of the development approved and continuing to be approved which is incredibly hard on the infrastructure and so on. Failing intersections like these can be directly connected to increased volume thanks to increased development, correct?
I am vehemently opposed to one of the ideas floating around – a roundabout or “circle” because in order to have it be the right size, people will undoubtedly lose their properties and homes via eminent domain.
I am not sure what I will get out of East Whiteland, and PennDOT did not even acknowledge I contacted them and the head Mahatma Leslie Richards was cc’d. But I was not impressed with her when she was a Montgomery County Commissioner and figured she was a political payback from Wolf when he was elected to his first term as Governor in PA. (But I digress)
However, I did get a response from East Goshen. Their manager is very fair to deal with. Here is what I was told:
I am in receipt of your right to know request of April 22, 2019
At their meeting on February 19, the East Goshen of Supervisor accepted the February 5, 2019 proposal from McMahon to develop a conceptual design plan for a roundabout and update the cost information. We received the report on March 28, 2019 and are currently working with East Whiteland to set up a joint meeting to roll out the project. The links below will take you to the agenda for the February 19 meeting and the minutes.
Because a roundabout or circle would drastically affect around the Lockwood Chase development, I am including the photos below:
Here is the video of the East Goshen meeting referenced above:
I will note that since 2015, articles have occasionally been appearing about how New Jersey is REMOVING circles.
Someone wrote to me from East Goshen:
Go to the Wegmans in Frazer/Malvern and see how good circles work! They SUCK. When we lived in northern Chesco and used Hares Hill Road between 724 and 113, we had 3 “4 way stops”, and a one lane bridge. even during rush hrs everyone would do the every other car thing. Circles don’t invite such nice driving habits.
As a matter of fact since I wrote my first post on this topic, the conversation on it has been coming at a fast and furious pace. And the consensus is (1) the townships are not discussing this enough with the public and should be more forthcoming (especially East Whiteland), (2) those who live around the intersection and in these townships do NOT want a circle or roundabout, they was signalization which would make each side of the intersection go one at a time and (3) the only people in favor of the circles and roundabouts don’t necesarily live in either East Goshen or East Whiteland Townships.
One of the things I wonder about is if either township has taken the temperature of Immaculata and Villa on this because buses have a crazy impossible time with circles and roundabouts and these academic institutions have many school buses daily and the big coach buses that transport visiting collegiate sports teams. And a lot of trucks also have issue with circles and roundabouts.
I will also note that if you are concerned, contact East Whiteland and East Goshen, preferably in writing. If you submit a Right To Know, you may find the following helpful:
“The Right-to-Know law has an express presumption that all records in possession of government agencies are public. However, there are more than 30 exemptions that allow agencies to deny access. There are two critical things to understand about exemptions An agency’s use of an exemption is discretionary; they are not required to deny access just because they can. There are other state laws that mandate secrecy but the Right-to-Know law does not. The legal burden of proving the legitimacy of the exemption falls to the government, not the requestor. In the years since the passage of the Right-to-Know law in 2008, significant case law has been developed, so it is critical to do some legal research on any specific exemption.” http://pafoic.org/right-to-know-law-exceptions/#ex22
If anyone else responds to my Right to Know I will continue to update my readers. I will close with sharing my friend Tim’s presentation to East Whiteland recently:
Pipeline and sinkhole. Just The Fact Please photo. November, 2017
Before I moved to Chester County, I was somewhat ambivalent about Sunoco and their pipelines. Among other things, I grew up with a father who was for years, in-house PR for a then major oil company. And part of that was during the Exxon Valdez era. But oil companies had deep pockets and what did I know? Nothing was near where we lived and those oil company deep pockets were always giving box loads of stuff to schools, bought full page ads in school newspapers for the kids of employees, etcetera.
When you first hear about problems with pipelines, pipeline construction, or even fracking, it is like this fuzzy thing out of focus ahead of you in the haze. It can’t possibly affect you. Until it does. And in my opinion, it is. I have friends who hail from Western Pennsylvania who literally have been warning people for years. And they are just nastily labeled “fracktivists”. Guess that is the new label for “concerned citizen”? Because I have got to tell you, the people I knew who once lived in Western PA are…wait for it…MOMS. You know how dangerous moms are, right?
Then it seems like in an instant but a couple miles in either direction from where you live as far as the crown flies in any direction, stuff starts to happen.
You feel like local municipal officials and politicians are just covering their ears saying “na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na” in order to NOT have to listen to residents. Respected environmental activists are labeled as being alarmists.
When Danielle Otten woke up Monday morning, she didn’t expect to see men working on the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site that sits about 40 feet from her backyard, along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, Chester County.
For one thing, work in the area had stalled after drilling dried up and damaged nearby water wells this past summer. And just last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a court order halting construction along the 350-mile long pipeline after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners continued to violate its permits, causing damage to private water wells, streams and wetlands…..When DEP issued a stop work order to Sunoco last week, it appeared that all work would halt aside from drilling and erosion controls that had to be continued in order to prevent additional environmental damage. But a spokesman for the DEP now tells StateImpact that when it comes to anything other than earth disturbance or water crossings, the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction.
In Chester County, as a resident, you can’t avoid the truth of the pipelines. And the risks and dangers. So many of us are on wells. And so many with wells are already having issues. And then there are those other pesky things…you know like sinkholes and so on?
The jarring visuals you see with your own eyes like the beautiful swaths of lands torn assunder are burned into your brain. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it and you wish you could.
Swing sets and play houses of small children sit in macabre juxtaposition to giant earth moving machines and huge pieces of pipe.
Giant walls, pipes, and earth moving machines also sit across the driveway from senior citizen apartment complexes and grocery stores.
Pipeline so close and on top of churches and schools in addition to residential neighborhoods and please, tell me, how is that safe?
Next to firehouses too? So basically, Sunoco puts those supposed to protect us at risk as well?
You have friends and former neighbors who have Sunoco gobbling up their land for the pipeline. You count your blessing like we did that we moved long ago from certain parts of Chester County because otherwise this view could be your very own backyard:
Uwchlan Safety Coalition photo
Only you can’t help but wonder if your slice of heaven will remain unmolested by pipelines? Like Medieval Feudal Lords, you are never quite sure what they will swoop in and take, are you?
You are, as residents of Chester County and elsewhere, supposed to bend over and accept these new vistas:
My photo, taken July, 2017
When you say “no I think this is bad” there are people who will jump all over you. “It’s perfectly safe. You don’t know what you are talking about.”
Sunoco is raping our land. They are depleting it, irrevocably changing it and in my opinion putting us all at risk. It is not OUR pipeline, it is THEIR pipeline being forced upon us all and we are not benefiting from it. This isn’t OUR infrastructure, it’s Sunoco’s infrastructure. What they take is being shipped OVERSEAS.
As another friend Ginny said to others:
Sunoco cannot replace the large, mature trees they are chopping down for this. Nor can they restore the fragile and important wetland there if they wreck it, just as they couldn’t restore the private wells that they wrecked in Marchwood this summer with this pipeline.
Living with hazardous liquefied natural gas lines is not a part of living in suburbia. In fact it is reckless to put these lines through densely populated areas, right alongside houses, schools, apartment buildings, shopping centers, seniors homes, etc.
When does it stop? When did Corporate America’s rights become more meaningful than ours in Chester and Delaware Counties and elsewhere in Pennsylvania? Why are we as residents being forced to live with something that destroys and takes and give nothing back in return? Why don’t residents matter? Why do we spend so much time feeling like our elected officials have forsaken us on this issue?
And why is it when you mention anything about not liking or distrusting pipelines some fool will always hop up and cry foul partisan politics? I mean do they really think we are such imbeciles that an issue which is non-partisan and affects EVERYONE is an example of partisan politics? Take off the dunce caps, because opposition to Mariner East is clearly bi-partisan.
Pipeline, East Goshen. My photo. Summer/Fall 2017
Today in addition to the CBS News report, Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety is a nonpartisan, fact-based, grassroots coalition of locally-based safety groups, made up of concerned Pennsylvanians from across our Commonwealth issued a press release:
Well guess what? I believe these folks, and this pipeline and it’s march across Chester County and elsewhere terrifies me. These people protesting are our neighbors and friends. And there are quite the growing numbers of experts, environmentalists and others who believe these residents.
My my my. My late father always said a lot of real news was buried in the Saturday paper. And here we have it.
File under April Fools’ from the Pennsylvania DEP?
At this point I can’t decide who is sleazier, can you? Developers with their perpetual sets of the emperor’s new clothes or the state agencies who are supposed to protect us?
I wonder what does the EPA think? I realize they are a Federal agency but do they care? Or are residents on their own with TCE across the country and the damage it does? The damage TCE has done already?
So yeah, Pennsylvania DEP, people ARE watching you. Remember Limerick? Remember how people rose up and demanded the DEP actually do their jobs and not just push paper around?
And while we are calling people out on toxic Bishop Tube and the fact that way too many in authority have known for DECADES about this site, should we not call out State Representative Duane Milne and State Senator Andy Dinniman?
This is a deadly, toxic site and it needs to be cleaned up properly. Those three hot spots which are the only ones that supposedly are going to get cleaned up are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg and the Pennsylvania DEP knows it, don’t they?
Pay attention to the post containing documents above, old documents tell interesting tales don’t they?
As of now there is a meeting hosted by East Whiteland Township on Bishop Tube on April 19. Note the careful wording of the notice because they have invited all the below parties to show up and hopefully all the below parties will show up considering the fact that some of them are now contacting residents right? I think this meeting is a demonstration of good faith on the part of East Whiteland Township. Here’s hoping all invited show up to the party, can’t we all agree?
East Whiteland has a meeting this week where Bishop Tube will be discussed- Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 7:30 PM. It is the Planning Commission. Same meeting room as the Zoning and Board of Supervisors. 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer, PA 19355.
Residents need to pack the boardroom again. I know, I know it’s like a part time job but it is important that every board hear residents with their own ears, and you have a finite amount of time to be heard.
Poor squirrel is utterly worn out from the 2016 election season….
I have avoided writing about this U.S. Presidential Election. I have mostly avoided speaking about it on my personal Facebook page except to share the Saturday Night Live debate spoofs.
Why them? Because Saturday Night Live is disturbingly spot on and it is one of the few things that makes me laugh at the hot mess this country has dissolved into.
This past May after the primary, I did something I thought I would never do: I switched my political party affiliation to Independent. I could not take it anymore. I was until that point a life-long Republican, even if I had split my ticket a lot of the time.
As of this past spring, I was no longer in either major party category given the polarization of American politics and the extremes on extremes we have been seeing.
This 2016 election season is the ugliest certainly in my lifetime. People are vile and hateful. All we see are the politics of ignorance. And anger.
2016 has also been the year of ugly violent protests where people are getting hurt…and dying.
What does all the ugliness accomplish?
Let’s go local.
I am in particular really tired of Jack London bodybuilding campaign mailers. Ok so Senator Dinniman? You are or should be a better human being than that. If that is the best you’ve got to put on a double sided post card, save the postage and printing charges. They are stupid and wasteful.
And Duane Milne? Tell the truth and shame the devil? On the 8th day apparently you personally invented Chester County (and everything in it), and several election cycles later, State Representative Milne I am still trying to figure out what you do besides show up for photo ops, so maybe we all should just give the other guy a shot?
So that is it on specific mailings. I am not even going to bother to dissect the Clinton and Trump mailers because they are ALL awful.
Kudos to Congressman Ryan Costello for having the least offensive mailers of a national candidate. It makes it easy to choose you. You get it.
As a registered Independent I officially get EVERYTHING. Every nasty piece of glossy tree killing junk mail that the United States Postal Service will not let me return to sender (I have tried). So I get to pay to recycle mail I did not ask for.
And not only am I getting my political junk mail but the political junk mail of a dead woman, the lady who used to live in our home. Apparently politicians do see dead people.
Now let’s talk about the calls. Robo calls galore. And not so robo calls from the terminally bored reading off scripts usually in an up-talk sing-song tone. The live people are so much fun….tell them you are an anarchist. Go ahead. It’s funny because every single one of them will stop dead and say “What? What’s an anarchist? This call isn’t about religion.” (Then I hang up.)
Social media. Some people should just stay OFF of social media until after the election.
Because the proverbial villages are being overrun by rabid ridiculousness. If half of the people even understood what the heck they were posting about it would be good. But most do not. And they spout and share angry vitriol from both sides that does nothing except foment hate.
And the political hypocrites. Do not even get me started on them.
I am just tired of this election season. We are a country of Ugly Americans because of the insane polarity and divisiveness. Friends are attacking friends over political talking heads that basically at the end of the day regardless of the party do NOT give a damn about any of us. The game is about the vote, a giant game of whomever gets all the toys wins.
After election day, will they know Jane and John and Sam and Cindy who shook the candidates’ hands at rallies?
This country is a hot angry mess. The election has been whittled down to choosing the lesser of two evils and how is that even a choice? After November 9th will berating your friends and strangers over their choices have been worth it?
And the sign stealers. Grow up. You don’t have to like your neighbor’s sign, they don’t have to like yours. But at this point between the stealing and the corners everywhere that just have too many signs and the highways which will wear political signs for months after the election because no one took them down, I wish there were NO POLITICAL SIGNS. OR ADS. OR BILLBOARDS.
When it comes to politics, I know we will never all get along, but we have collectively lost the ability for civil discourse. And so have the national campaigns.
With about 6 in 10 Americans disliking each of them — and as many as one-quarter saying they dislike both of them — the 2016 campaign will almost undoubtedly be a race to the bottom. In such a situation, campaigns will almost always focus on making the case that their opponent is unacceptable rather than making a positive case for their candidate. And that was certainly the case in Clinton’s and Trump’s acceptance speeches.
Polling shows voters indeed are already more prepared to vote against something than for something in 2016…
If you have a brain and aren’t afraid to use it, no matter who it is you will vote for on November 8th, you should be terrified. We are a country of haters and some days it feels like we are on the brink of yet another Civil War, and we all know how well that worked out the last time.
Please, for the love of what Americans used to be, do your part to dial back the vitriol and rhetoric. Remember the people who died to give us our freedoms, and try to respect them. I do not think election season 2016 is what they fought and died for. I rather think they were trying to escape hateful behavior like we are seeing from coast to coast.
I went to Malin Road and stood outside the fences of Bishop Tube today. Totally creepy and deserted. I was glad to see an unmarked police car do a drive by a couple minutes after I got there, the place gave me the willies.
I took photos from outside the fencing on the road. What a weird feeling to be out on such a gloriously beautiful day, yet there was the overwhelming creepiness of the Bishop Tube Site, all abandoned and the only way to describe it was the place seems to radiate negative energy. Don’t see how that feeling will be eradicated by plastic townhouses marching row after row. The site doesn’t appear to be particularly secure and given what appears to be vandalism, nor does itappear as if it has been for years has it?
Staring at the site, I couldn’t help but wonder where the PA DEP was on this? I can find on the Internet where they were in the past, but not in the present. Or the EPA, which is so screwed up just read THIS and THIS and THIS. Here let me share this:
The scene was otherworldly. A river tinted orange by a toxic brew of heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, and other pollutants. Three million gallons of wastewater from an abandoned gold mine in rural southwestern Colorado flows slowly downstream. Communities are shutting off drinking water collection. Vacationers are being warned to avoid contact with the contaminated water.
The cause? None other than a mistake by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Wall Street Journalreported details on the incident Sunday, noting that the spill was initially downplayed by the EPA, and that it was much larger than first reported. Most importantly, as of Sunday, the mine is still releasing wastewater at a rate of about 500 gallons per minute. The pollution incident is ongoing.
This latest toxic release is yet another example of the EPA spectacularly failing at its primary mission. As I’ve expressed in this space before, the government is not particularlycompetent at environmental remediation and management.
When you read things written by critics of the PA DEP, it is often not much better. Look these government agencies have good intentions but they all seem to get in their own way and in the end are the accomplishing their goals of protecting all of us?
The Pennsylvania DEP has been criticized for its poor record of providing information on fracking-related contamination to state residents. In April, a Pennsylvania Superior Court case claimed that due to the way DEP operates and its lack of public record, it’s impossible for citizens to know about cases where private wells, groundwater and springs are contaminated by drilling and fracking.
“The DEP must provide citizens with information about the potential harm coming their way,” John Smith, one of the attorneys representing municipalities in the lawsuit, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If it doesn’t record and make available the violations records then it is denying the public accurate information, which is unconscionable.”
When is the last time the PA DEP or EPA took a good look at sites like Bishop Tube in Pennsylvania? These aren’t new sexy disasters, they are plodding along existing trouble spots so now that there don’t appear to be lots of government money floating around for clean up ( a la “Growing Greener“) who cares about these toxic sites like Bishop Tube?
I happened to check the court dockets on the Bishop Tube litigation mention in prior posts when I came home and there are a few more filings on the case of ordinary hard-working people vs, everyone involved around Bishop Tube. Here are the two most interesting:
Apparently although The Daily Local did that curtain raiser of an article a couple of weeks ago, no other media seems interested in a toxic superfund site in bucolic Chester County? Or are there media inquiries and other inquiries starting to foment and ferment behind the scenes?
Here are a couple of gems from all this legal stuff:
From the plaintiffs’ memorandum (2:15-cv-01919 (GJP) filed 8/10/15):
Page 4: “The Plaintiffs have alleged that, during the Defendants’ respective ownership and operation thereof, they discharged hazardous substances into the environmental which have migrated onto and into the Plaintiffs’ property including the Plaintiffs’ drinking water. It is further alleged that the Defendants have failed to remediate the contamination, the regulatory authorities have failed to require the Defendants to remediate the contamination and additional response work will be necessary.”
Page 6 “It is alleged in the Complaint that, during their respective periods of ownership and operation of the Bishop Tube site, the Defendants used or permitted the use of hazardous substances, including trichloroethylene (“TCE”), during the manufacturing processes for their seamless stainless steel and other products and that, as a result of the Defendants’ ownership and operations at the Bishop Tube site, hazardous substances, including TCE, were disposed into the environment, including the Bishop Tube site’s soils and groundwater. See Complaint,¶¶34-35. It is further alleged that subsurface migration of contaminated groundwater from the Bishop Tube site has and continues to contaminate the aquifer beneath the Bishop Tube site and beneath off-site premises including the Plaintiffs’ home. See Complaint, ¶36.”
Page 7 “Accordingly, in or about 1999, the PADEP took over response actions at the Bishop Tube site, which included periodic sampling of soil, surface water, groundwater, vapor intrusion pathway analysis and maintenance of monitoring wells in the contaminated aquifer as well as the installation of a soil vapor extraction and air sparging system designed to capture and remove contamination from subsurface soils at the Bishop Tube site. See Complaint, ¶¶42-43.
However, none of the Defendants have taken any steps to actively remediate the contamination that originated on the Bishop Tube site, which has and continues to migrate onto the Warren property and neither the EPA nor the PADEP have taken any steps to compel such remedial activity. See Complaint, ¶44. Further response action is necessary to abate the release of the hazardous substances at the Bishop Tube site which have and continue to migrate onto the Warren property. See Complaint, ¶45.”
A Notice of Intent to Sue was served on all Defendants as well as the EPA and PADEPon December 8, 2014, to which no one responded”
Page 11: “III. Plaintiffs’ RCRA Claim Must Not Be Dismissed
Johnson Matthey next argues that the Plaintiffs’ RCRA claim must be dismissed because it does not adequately allege an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment” and because the State is diligently addressing the contamination.
However, as described in detail above, the Complaint alleges that TCE contamination from the Bishop Tube site has migrated into the Plaintiffs’ well water. TCE is a volatile organic compound “used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers.
Trichloroethylene is not thought to occur naturally in the environment. However, it has been found in underground water sources and many surface waters as a result of the manufacture,use, and disposal of the chemical.” There is evidence that TCE affects the developmental and nervous systems in humans and is also carcinogenic. Specifically, there is evidence that TCE can cause kidney cancer and limited evidence for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer as well as various tumors in animals. See United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Toxic Substances Portal for TCE, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=30 (last visited August 7,2015).
Accordingly, it is respectfully submitted that it is disingenuous for Johnson Matthey to claim that Plaintiffs have not adequately alleged sufficient imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment to sustain a RCRA claim.”
Page 13: “Conclusion
Simply stated, in support of their federal CERCLA and RCRA claims, the Plaintiffs have alleged that: (1) the Defendants, including Johnson Matthey, discharged hazardous substances, including TCE, into the environment at the Bishop Tube site which have migrated onto the Plaintiffs’ property and, specifically, into their drinking water; (2) that the Defendants have failed to remediate the contamination; (3) that the regulatory authorities have failed to require the Case 2:15-cv-01919-GJP Document 6 Filed 08/10/15 Page 12 of 13 10 Defendants to remediate the contamination; and (4) that additional response work will be necessary. Indeed, TCE is a carcinogenic. Based on the foregoing, it is respectfully submitted that the Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts, which must be presumed true for purposes of this Motion, to withstand a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the FRCP”
From First Amended Complaint With Jury Demand:
Page 5: 37: “During their respective periods of ownership and operation of the Bishop Tubesite, the Defendants used or permitted the use of hazardous substances, including trichloroethylene (”TCE”), during the manufacturing processes for their seamless stainless steel and other products.”
Ok above are just snippets of the legal documents, quotes, excerpts. You can read for yourself the entire thing as they are uploaded in this post:
I did not create any of this it is all on the court record.
I am a cancer survivor. I would not wish that on anyone. I have also known people who have seen their children through cancer and trust me, it is too gut wrenching for words. In my opinion based on the research available to publicly peruse, this is site is toxic is it not? And then there is General Warren Village. Those residents deserve peace of mind don’t they? They have always been directly affected by Bishop Tube haven’t they?
I am a realist. This might be a creepy site but it is this chunk of land that developers are salivating over (don’t know if they are glowing in the dark from walking around it, however.) This site will be made into something although really it should be cleaned up and left alone since it is also my opinion that this site will take years to properly remediate, and can’t you agree that is reasonable?
But the thing is this: a plan like that not only affects people who want their piece of the American Dream and want to live in gorgeous Chester County who might purchase these cram plan slab on grade no basement wonders if they are built, but potentially every east Whiteland resident in the future, correct?
How can East Whiteland say for certain they would not ever become a party over litigation surrounding this site? They can’t, can they? And they have an obligation to current and future residents to see beyond the shiny promises of developers oh so familiar to them, see beyond and some new ratables down the road, and must put their heads down and see that this site is properly remediated and even get alternate land uses investigated, right? The bottom line is the owner of the land knows how to remediate this properly, they have the experience, correct?
Approving a development plan here while this litigation is ongoing and remediation isn’t complete can be considered a case of putting the cart before the horse, yes? And why is it all we hear is about the developer planning on “capping vapors” with the concrete slabs for the townhouses, yet the current litigation mentions aquifer again and again which is ground water, drinking water, and so on, right? A little different from vapors, right?
East Whiteland has a lot of development balls in the air and should we worry about how the land planning with all the developer driven zoning overlays are getting done?
East Whiteland, you have to do this right. Lives depend upon it. Please.
According to court records from 2005, the Bishop Tube site groundwater contamination was first formally recognized in 1980:
In 1980, Congress enacted CERCLA. Groundwater contamination associated with the Malvern Site was first identified in the spring of 1980 in residential wells. (Pl.’s Resp. Ex. 2 at 56412.) In September 1983, the Malvern Superfund Site was listed on the National Priorities List. (Id.)
Community folks reported 1-2 cancer cases in every household at that time, correct? A plume of contaminants from on-site has spread and is in the groundwater and local wells, correct? A creek flows through there. Traces of the crud have been discovered a mile away, correct? There has been activity to clean up the contaminants at the site, but is it REALLY complete? Until it is complete, crud will continue to move in the plume, correct?
Additionally, since I posted my post I have seen the post shared on social media. Residents of the area who grew up in and around General Warren have shared memories like this one:
” I remember being evacuated in June 1982 due to chemical spills and clouds of toxic stuff being in the air. Still clear in my mind since was studying for finals and we had to spend the night up in the old school in town. Also remember how my parents felt since there were fire police knocking on peoples’ doors to get out of their homes while the cops stayed in their cars and were using speakers to get people out.”
They were both born in the 1950s, two years apart. They both grew up in General Warren Village, the modest, working class subdivision located south of Lancaster Avenue near the intersection of Route 29, and named for the historic General Warren Inne.
Like many of their neighbors in General Warren, Hartman and Worst worked at the nearby Bishop Tube Co.
Most significantly, the two men know of former Bishop employees who suffer from potentially fatal illnesses that they believe may have been caused by their exposure to trichlorethylene (TCE), a suspected carcinogen, during their tenure at the plant.
Hartman’s father, Lester Hartman, who worked alongside him at the plant, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease. Worst has stage two melanoma and lesions on his liver and kidneys that his doctors are monitoring.
According to a report from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, breathing high levels of TCE may cause nervous system effects, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma and possibly death.
Hartman and Worst can also run off a list of fellow Bishop Tube workers who either died from cancer or nerve diseases, or currently suffer from them.”
Ok so then you peruse all the East Whiteland Planning Commission meeting minutes you can find online that discuss Bishop Tube and here is a sampling:
ZONING ORDINANCE AMENDMENT; CONSTITUTION DRIVE PARTNERS (BISHOP TUBE) – RRD RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT.
Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire and Bo Erixxon and Chuck Dobson
The proposed ordinance is amending the “Table of Development Standard for Residential Districts” for the RRD Residential Revitalization District for the maximum tract density by reducing the number from 20 units to 12 units per developable acre. Other changes provide for reduction in setbacks from street and building spacing. The applicant had held a meeting with the adjacent tank farm owners and residents from General Warren Village. They have been able to satisfy the access of school buses, tanker trucks and emergency access under the railroad overpass. The total number of units being proposed has decrease from 303 to 264 units.
ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE
Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Frank Tavani, John Benson
The applicant is requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts.” The property is located on the south side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation. Mr. O’Neill advised that he has partnered with Benson Companies to construct townhouses on South Malin Road.
Mr. O’Neill stated that he met with the Township’s Fire Marshal who expressed his concern with the ability to handle a fire for multi-story structures at this location. Therefore, Mr. O’Neill has reduced the number of units to 305 down from 537 units. Density has been reduced by two-thirds from the original proposal. There will be no building on “hot spot” within the property, thereby, providing more green space. These “hot spots” will be capped. The new design is a rear entry building with 16 or 20 foot widths, three stories and approximately 1,900 sq. ft. The issue of a school buses being able to maneuver was investigated and determined not to be a problem. Changes to the intersection timing at Route 30 and South Malin Road will require modifications. Emergency vehicles only will have access to a keyed gate through Village Way. Members were advised that stormwater runoff will be controlled and the water will be cleaning before discharged to protect the Valley Creek. Discussion ensued.
Mr. David Babbitt presented his finding of the Fiscal Impact Study. He advised that the financial impact is positive for all entities: township, school district and county. He reviewed the report and stated that this development will not have a negative impact on the school district. Discussion ensued.
Members were advised that stacked townhouses are three and one-half stories tall and approximately 1,600-2,300 sq. ft. Mr. O’Neill addressed the screening for the units on the west side facing the tank farm and the exterior building materials being proposed. He offered to provide a four foot berm in front of the homes facing the tank farm for additional protection. Members suggested: 1) further review by the Fire Marshal for the new plan configuration; 2) traffic study review; and 3) approval of the building heights.
ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE
Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Guy Wolfington
They are requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts. The property is located on the southeast side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The permitted uses are by right, special exceptions and conditional uses. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation.
Mr. O’Neill advised that the Bishop Tube property access is restricted due to the railroad tunnel. Various other development proposals have failed due to these restrictions. He is suggesting developing the property by demolishing the buildings. He will build 34 townhouses and 360 loft apartment with underground parking. There has been a cooperative effort from all parties to clean up the site. Discussion ensued concerning the safety limitations out of this area. Mr. O’Neill offered other developments where similar access limitation exists. He offered to provide the members a tour of these other locations he’s developed.
ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE
Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Frank Tavani, John Benson
The applicant is requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts.” The property is located on the south side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to
provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation.
They are proposing to construct 305 townhouses. The density has been reduced by two-thirds from the original proposal. Mr. Colagreco stated that this most recent plan has been presented to Ken Battin, Building Official/Fire Marshal, and he gave a favorable review of this plan. Members were advised that they can satisfactorily comply with the items listed in McMahon Associates letter, dated May 23, 2014. Changes to the intersection timing at Route 30 and South Malin Road can be accomplished. A discussion ensued relative to the County Planning Commission review letter. The solicitor felt that they had not been given them credit for the revitalization. Ms. Woodman asked, if the two properties under agreement with the Benson Company, contained any contamination? She suggested that the applicant investigate Section 200-25.1 (A) which requires that the properties either will or have undergone remediation standards. To date, the Township has no “brownfield” notification on these two parcels. The applicant was advised the the surrounding community is interested in the status of the cleanup. Mr. Colagreco suggested that information be forward to the Township for incorporation on the website.
Mr. Laumer made a motion to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of the Zoning Ordinance Text and Map Amendments to creating a new RRD- Residential Revitalization District and applying this District in lieu of the current I-Industrial Zoning District designation on three parcels including the former
Bishop Tube property located on South Malin Road east of the Buckeye Tank Farm. The motion was seconded by Todd Asousa and the vote was unanimous.
Ok, so all this craziness mostly talks ONLY about HOW many units. From a couple hundred to over five hundred, to three hundred to two hundred and sixty four and apparently after last evening’s meeting oh goodie two hundred and thirty some odd units.
If this site is NOT completely remediated , why the cart before the horse scenario? Isn’t it a little bass ackwards to be discussing a development plan if a site is not completely cleaned up? And is it true it can take decades to properly clean up a site like this because you never know when little pools of toxic goodness will bubble up? And can’t these chemicals get trapped between rocks and stuff and get released anew if moved?
Philadelphia (July 18, 2014, 5:09 PM ET) — A Pennsylvania court ruled Thursday that the owner of a contaminated tract of Chester County land could not appeal a Department of Environmental Protection letter ending an agreement in which the landowner agreed to take measures to rehabilitate the site in exchange for protection from liability.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board said that the letter the DEP sent to Constitution Drive Partners LP — which purchased the site of a former precious metals and steel processing facility in 2005 — was not appealable because the letter itself had no effect on the company…..When CDP bought the former Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Township, it reached an agreement with DEP to take certain steps to remediate the existing soil and groundwater contamination, according to the opinion.
Then, in 2011, an independent contractor hired by CDP damaged piping and protective covering on a soil vapor extraction and air sparging system while conducting salvage operations on the site…..But in January, DEP sent the company the letter citing the 2011 damage and accusing the company of breaking the 2005 agreement…..CDP is represented by Jonathan Sperger and Lynn Rauch of Manko Gold Katcher & Fox LLP.
The DEP is represented by in-house counsel Anderson Lee Hartzell.
The case is Constitution Drive Partners LLC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, case number 2014-019-M, in the Environmental Hearing Board.
So how does the above affect this potential development? And should there even been anything in the approval process of a municipality when remediation doesn’t appear to be complete and there is a Federal level law suit pending?
DEP TO HOLD HEARING OUTLINING TREATMENTS FOR CHESTER COUNTY SITE CONTAMINATION
Public Invited to Comment on Plans for Bishop Tube Property
NORRISTOWN — The Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, to give residents the chance to comment on a proposal to address soil and groundwater contamination at the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. The former industrial facility is being cleaned up under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA), a 1988 law that authorizes DEP to investigate and clean up hazardous waste sites. “We have a unique opportunity at this site to partner with the current property owner to make sure that groundwater and contaminated soil can be treated simultaneously and efficiently,” DEP Southeast Regional Director Joseph A. Feola said. “We will present these plans at the Jan. 30 hearing for public comment.”
The site consists of a large area of contaminated groundwater associated with the former Bishop Tube Company. The company used, and most likely released, hazardous substances into the environment, including trichloroethylene (TCE), nitric acid, hydrofluoric acid and various heavy metals including nickel and chromium. TCE is of particular concern since it has been detected in groundwater on the former Bishop Tube property and in wells and springs off-site.
Although DEP activity on this site began in 1999, most recently, the agency has been concentrating its efforts on three distinct source areas of contaminated soil.
Last September, a DEP contractor installed monitoring wells to help determine the extent that contaminated groundwater from the Bishop Tube site is affecting the Little Valley Creek, part of the Exceptional Value Valley Creek Watershed.
From 1999 through 2006, DEP completed three phases of remedial investigation work at the site, mapping onsite soil contamination and conducting stream and sediment sampling while conducting groundwater investigation work. Within the last year, the agency has initiated a feasibility study to evaluate options for addressing the discharge of contaminated shallow groundwater to Little Valley Creek.
The 13.7-acre Bishop Tube property is currently owned by Constitution Drive Partners (CDP), who purchased the site in 2005 to redevelop it for commercial or light industrial use. As part of the site purchase agreement, CDP will finance the purchase and installation of equipment needed to remediate contaminated soils in the three source areas and work with DEP to address groundwater contamination issues. This will enable DEP to better coordinate cleanup actions with the developer’s plans to renovate the site for productive use.
So these are hot spots and contaminated areas that they know of? (And isn’t it amazing this project is being all put out for bid consideration like it is a done deal? Is it a “done deal”?)
Last night I heard a handful of residents attended the East Whiteland Planning Commission Meeting. Early reports of citizenry perspective can be summed up in one word: disappointment. East Whiteland has a grave responsibility here don’t you think? Shouldn’t a plan with so many external balls in the air be tabled until things are settled? Like any litigation involving the site and site remediation being completed? What happens if they just close there eyes, hope for the best and approve without all of that stuff being taken care of? Litigation where the township could be added to, correct?
And a word to the wise to residents who think this plan doesn’t affect them: even if you don’t live in or around General Warren Village this affects you. Traffic, infrastructure, and costs associated with any future litigation over a site contaminated with toxic waste for starters, right? Couldn’t any potential township involved litigation related to this site be economically crippling to a municipality?
Residents in East Whiteland should stand with the residents of General Warren on this. Those people in General Warren have taken it on the chin with things like Cube Smart (and the stories of how some residents were treated are a little alarming, right?). The negatives thus far outweigh the positives of any development at Bishop Tube, don’t they?
And there is another thing to consider – so once upon a time there was this moratorium on development in East Whiteland. See:
Ok so this went all the way to the State Supreme Court. And it was struck down. Which isn’t any great surprise given things like, oh I don’t know…. the Municipalities Planning Code and whatnot? At the time former supervisor Virginia McMichael was quoted as saying:
“We knew we were sticking our necks out a little bit, and people said we should wait to enact a moratorium,” Virginia McMichael, vice chairwoman of the East Whiteland supervisors, said recently.
“But by not waiting, we did have a year to work on our comprehensive plan without having to accept new plans, and that was helpful to us. Now, we’ve lost one of our arrows.”
The township’s 18-month moratorium was adopted in February 2000. It was suspended last July after the Zoning Hearing Board found it invalid because proper review procedures were not followed. Supervisors reinstated the moratorium in September.
On June 20, the state Supreme Court ruled that while a municipality can regulate land development, it cannot suspend it through moratoriums.
Eyes rolling. How much did Virginia’s Follycost East Whiteland tax payers? We may never know, right? And the irony of this woman championing a moratorium on development back then and by the time she skeedaddled to wherever she went after she stepped down she was a champion of development and do I have that straight?
Who says you can’t have it both ways?
So if you do the math starting with plans that started getting presented when McMichael was still supervisor to the present day how many living units are in the works for East Whiteland? 1200+? 1500+? Or more?
East Whiteland is awash in a Where’s Waldo of development. But hey, since East Whiteland is working on another comprehensive plan maybe they should have a Groundhog Day and try another moratorium on development? (Kidding but if only it could happen, right?)
Look Bishop Tube is scary stuff. Why can’t they clean it up completely and get some sort of cleaned up certification from PA DEP or the EPA before proceeding on anything else? And why can’t East Whiteland ask for that?
And as far as development goes East Whiteland would be best served by taking a breath just because a developer decrees build it and they will come, it doesn’t make it so. Especially when you are talking about sites like Bishop Tube which have the distinct potential of becoming Silkwood meets Erin Brocavitch, right?
The bottom line here is we all have to care, all of us. We just have to. Can we say that lives and future lives depend upon it? Here is hoping in a strange collision of the universe that politicians and developers and municipal folk care about doing this one right.
Fifteen and twenty years ago I knew nothing about home schooling, cyber charter schools, or bricks and mortar charter schools. I wasn’t a parent, so I didn’t fully comprehend the importance of having such choice.
Yes, I predominantly went to private schools. But when I was in 7th to 9th grades I was in public school. Then called junior high in the much ballyhooed and over indulged Lower Merion School District. Welsh Valley Junior High School.
We had been living in the city, in Society Hill, and once we got past the 6th grade school choice as in a good and safe education meant little kids on buses and trains. So my parents made the move to suburbia at the end of 6th grade into the Magic Kingdom of the Main Line and Lower Merion Township.
The kids in the new neighborhood were awesome. They went to public, private, and Catholic school. Unfortunately, while my parents hoped that nice kids in a nicer neighborhood would translate into the public school I would be attending and it didn’t . Welsh Valley ended up being an education all right. Just not the positive or productive one that people like real estate agents would chatter about hoping you would purchase their listings. And some of those houses were classic. (And allow me a brief detour because I have to share the fact that as an 11 year old you haven’t lived until you have seen a Main Line house with not only a padded scream therapy room but a guest room devoted to a very odd collectible – an electric chair removed from some prison or something. The house was somewhere in Bryn Mawr.)
But back to public school. I have written about it before in detail, am not going into it again in such detail, so here are the cliff notes: drugs, bullying, inappropriate teachers, and behind the 8 ball scholastically when compared to my peer group in other schools, including other public school districts. I was a very bright student, smart enough to have been put more than a year ahead and my parents saw that their child was dying by inches in this educational environment that was supposed to be so fabulous. Only it wasn’t.
So the three year experiment was ended and I went back to private school. To Shipley. Private schools were almost affordable back then. Smaller classes, teachers who gave a damn, and actual academic excellence. It wasn’t a perfect Utopia, every school has issues, but I thrived. I will always be grateful that I was able to go to Shipley.
However, today private schools are ridiculous in price and their tuitions are beyond the reach of a lot of people. Even Catholic or other faith based schools are out of reach. Because of that, there is a need for education choice. We have seen the rise of cyber charter schools, bricks and mortar charter schools, and home schooling in Pennsylvania. These types of schools have filled the void created by that gargantuan public school vacuum in Pennsylvania.
I will freely admit that fifteen and twenty years ago I was a skeptic of alternative forms of education. But then I became a parent with a kid who was a faceless cog in the wheel of a giant school district who in my opinion did not care, or did not care enough. They did not care about effectively and consistently dealing with bullying even in elementary school. They did not care enough as a top down approach to education. And if you were the parents of a special needs child? Well I have friends who have children in that category and they will tell you that you have to fight for the basics in public schools every day. Even in affluent areas.
My personal experience is that of a very bright child who was suffocating. When my kid came home with “homework” that was not a book but a poorly copied copy of a Xerox copy of drivel I knew I was reaching a breaking point. When I experienced first hand a principal not dealing with overt, obvious, and repeated bullying, I knew I was beyond the breaking point. And this was not some inner city elementary school with no resources. This was East Goshen Elementary School in the West Chester Area School District. You would have thought that a school in what is supposedly Pennsylvania’s wealthiest county would be better than that, right? They weren’t.
And I know full well that teachers I know through social media who are in this district are going to be peeved at me once again. I also accept that friends of mine whose children were fortunate enough to make it through WCASD unscathed and prepared for life are not going to be happy either, but this is our experience, and I can’t dumb it down or sugar coat it, it happened.
I know I am not alone. I know a lot of parents in Chester County who either have their kids in charter/cyber-charter schools or who are home schooling. One friend in particular stands out. Her child is on the autism spectrum and was dying by inches in her Chester County school district. Her child was not getting needs even remotely met, and they were paying for it in taxes. So my friend decided to home school. The difference is remarkable. Her child is bright and articulate and is becoming a wonderful young lady who excels in school, loves to learn. She is like any other teen, and this is thanks not to the public school district where they live, but due to the determination of her parents.
We put our child in a charter school. As opposed to our parents, private school was not in the budget. The economics of today are very different, and when we were in private school we weren’t looking at $30k to $50k a year per child when all was said and done.
Our child is in Renaissance Academy in Phoenixville, and is thriving. The teachers care, they educate, the kids are nicer and brighter. Classes are smaller, which means your kid does not get lost, they are not just a cog in the wheel. And the irony is we are now in arguably the best school district in Chester County and we choose to keep our child there. He is happy. That also makes us lucky if we had to make a change, but most in charter or cyber charter schools can’t say that. And we all deserve choice. We are paying for it.
Another thing about how I feel now about alternatives to public school has to do with my peer group, my friends. I have two very good friends who are involved with charter and cyber charter schools. One in development and one from the administrative and educational side of the table. They are two of the brightest women I know and as a parent they are exactly the kinds of women I want in education today.
So are we bullet proof literally and figuratively no matter where we send our children to school? Absolutely not, but we pay enough in taxes every year to fund public school education that we should be able to have choice.
And there are two bills winding their way through Harrisburg that would rob parents of choice and detrimentally affect children’s lives. Especially those kids with special needs who often don’t get enough help now. Here, I will let Renaissance Academy describe it as they did in a notification to parents. It is fair and balanced and tells it like it is:
Last year, the legislature passed Act 3 which was an honest attempt to bring rationality to the funding of special education children. A commission was formed to draft a report and further legislation to achieve that objective. The commission did admirable work creating a three-tiered system and multipliers for each category of special education student. But two inequities arose in the recommended implementation. First, only in the case of charter schools is the funding based on basic education funding. Second, while the implementation is to apply only to the $20 million in new special education proposed by the Governor for traditional schools, it is applied to the total $1 billion in special education funding for charter schools.
These fundamental differences lead to two serious inequities. First, the discriminatory treatment of one class of special education student based, not on their challenges, but solely on the type of public school they have chosen to attend. The same child, with exactly the same challenges, would receive more state financial support if he or she were in a traditional school than if the family had chosen a charter school. Second, the decreased funding for charters destroys the ability of charter schools to meet state and federal FAPE requirements, and in some cases to continue to exist as a financially viable school.
To learn more about the specifics of these two bills HB 2138 and SB 1316:
I am not going to say all public schools are bad. They aren’t . But charter schools are a choice we should be allowed. Our child is in a very successful charter school and a public charter school is alternative public education. This is education we pay for, so we should not let lobbyists and politicians vote into laws things that remove educational choices.
This is of course another reason why I think people need to send Harrisburg a message this upcoming May primary. I think these bills are but another reason to render Governor Tom Corbett a lame duck. So use the power of your vote. Anyone who supports these bills either publicly as a sponsor or behind the scenes shouldn’t be representing us in Pennsylvania.
However, don’t just send a message with your vote, write your legislators. In Chester County it is suggested that you contact some or all of the following ASAP:
Dan Truitt (House/R) 610-696-4990
Robert Tomlinson (Senate/R) 215-638-1784
Pat Browne (Senate/R) 610-821-8468 – CO-SPONSOR of SB1085
More information on what politicians do in Harrisburg:
House Education Committee:
Clymer, Paul I. – Chair YEA (215)257-0279
Aument, Ryan P. YEA (717) 295-5050
Christiana, Jim YEA (724) 728-7655
Emrick, Joe YEA (570) 897-0401
English, Harold A. YEA (412) 487-6605
Fleck, Mike YEA (814) 644-2996
Gillen, Mark M. YEA (610) 775-5130
Grove, Seth M. YEA (717) 767-3947
O’Neill, Bernie YEA (215)441-2624
Rapp, Kathy L. YEA (814) 723-5203
Reese, Mike YEA (724) 423-6503
Rock, Todd YEA (717) 749-7384
Simmons, Justin J. YEA (610) 282-3901
Tallman, Will YEA (717) 259-7805
Truitt, Dan NAY (610)696-4990
Roebuck, James R. – Chair YEA
Carroll, Mike YEA
Clay, James YEA
Conklin, Scott YEA
Harkins, Patrick J. YEA
Longietti, Mark YEA
Molchany, Erin C. YEA
O’Brien, Michael H. YEA
Santarsiero, Steven J. YEA
Wheatley, Jake YEA
Senate Appropriations Committee:
Tomlinson, Robert M., ViceChair
Pileggi, Dominic, Ex‑Officio
Scarnati, Joseph B., III, Ex‑Officio
Argall, David G.
Eichelberger, John H., Jr.
Gordner, John R.
Greenleaf, Stewart J.
Rafferty, John C., Jr.
Smucker, Lloyd K.
Vance, Patricia H.
Vogel, Elder A., Jr.
Ferlo, Jim, MinorityViceChair
Costa, Jay, Ex‑Officio
Blake, John P.
Farnese, Lawrence M., Jr.
Schwank, Judith L.
Solobay, Timothy J.
Washington, LeAnna M.
Wozniak, John N.
Yudichak, John T
Be polite when you contact these people. Suggested talking points are as follows:
1. These changes would ensure that that the same special education child, with exactly the same challenges, would receive 30–60 percent less state financial support if he or she were in a public charter school than if the family had chosen to remain in the traditional public school. That is outrageous and blatantly discriminatory. At RA we have 160 Special Education students, this will be nearly a $1.5 million dollar impact on our small school.
2. This inequity will most likely also prevent my school from meeting mandated state and federal FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education) requirements, and could cause us to close –based, not on quality, but on insufficient funding.
3. The financial implications of the implementation of this bill is disastrous for one class of special education students, and will be a major step in the direction of eliminating educational choice for Pennsylvania parents.
There may not be any charter schools left in PA if this bill passes. Why are our public charter school kids being discriminated against as if they are not as worthy as traditional public school students? Our charter school kids deserve the same funding as every other public school child.
4. Children, regardless of the school they choose, should be getting the same amount of money. These are real children, with real disabilities who will get hurt by this. And if this passes, ALL of the kids in the school will be hurt because the school will not survive. We ask you, in the best interests of ALL our children, to not support this legislation.
My friends who work for an with charter and cyber charter schools are telling me that right now schools are trying to figure out how to cut 10% and more out of their budgets. Want to know why I admire charters other than the choice they provide our kids? They actually do more with less every single day. As opposed to traditional public schools and school districts they actually try harder. And well, yes, a lot of charter and cyber charter schools are making traditional public school systems look bad and work harder. I am all for that.
Students and parents deserve choice. Please join the fight to preserve such choice.
I hear a lot of parents who have kids in Charter Schools will be going to Harrisburg on May 6th. That is next Tuesday. A lot of these parents can’t really afford a day off, but they are making the choice for their children.
I hope the media will pick up on this as well. Education is so important. And the media is NOT talking about this, it’s not sexy enough for them or sensationalistic. It’s only education, right?
Your voice is needed to preset student equity and my final note is this is not merely another pissing match between traditional public schools and public charter schools. As the Pennsylvania Coalition for Public Charter Schools says (and I quote):
This is not a traditional vs. charter school issue. It is about institutionalized discrimination against special education students based on the school they have chosen to attend. A special education student in a charter school will receive between 30-60 percent less than a student with the same challenges in a traditional school.
My child is not special needs. He is merely a kid who needed a better choice in public education and a charter school has provided that. But I have friends with special needs kids. I know how they scrimp and sacrifice. So for them as well as more generally speaking, anyone who chooses alternative public school education for their children, I write this post. It is also my belief that it won’t be just special needs kids who suffer if these bills are just passed into law the way they are now.