Bishop Tube, August 2015
Tomorrow March 8th is the Board of Supervisors Meeting in East Whiteland. And Bishop Tube is on the agenda.
Bishop Tube. I know, I know I write about it a lot. I can’t help it. The site terrifies me. I wrote about it last week after the Zoning Hearing Board meeting in East Whiteland. The zoning hearing was continued to March 15th .
Also last week there was an Environmental Action Committee meeting. Bishop Tube was a big topic of conversation. Here are notes that someone (not me, I was not there) took:
–The soil will be cleaned up by the developer in order to build, but it will be years before there will be an attempt at cleaning up the ground water. Sad but true that it may never be able to be cleaned up. This water is NOT going into our water table or any of the streams around us.
–The 20k that the developer said they would put in escrow to help with the cost of the upkeep, testing and maintenance on the vapor mitigation system is not enough. We all know that but apparently the developer thinks it will be enough. John Buzan (ran the meeting and maybe he’s the head of the EAC I don’t’ know) agreed that 20k wasn’t going to cover it.
–The developer isn’t involved, nor has to deal with the plans for ground water cleanup…I’m pretty sure this is what I understood.
–The township has asked DEP to oversee the vapor mitigation system and ground removal but they have not agreed to this as of yet. They are responsible to oversee the water run off though.
–There will be a third party hired to continuously test the soil and air and water surrounding the site for contaminates as the construction is done. This company will report to the township but will be paid for, but not picked, by the developer.
–If ever a sewer, or something like that has to be dug up; the people doing this will have to wear protective gear in order to be sure there are no contaminants that they would breathe or come in contact with.
–The developer has contacted the railroad (sorry can’t remember name of company – it is not the R5 but a freight train that runs through there) to talk of re-doing that under pass as it is in very poor condition. No answer yet.
Also today I received a response to questions I had asked, advice I had sought from a professional not connected to this whole scenario regarding Bishop Tube. The response was illuminating, and on the eve of yet another meeting where Bishop Tube is discussed, I feel obliged to share:
Developer should be able to offer some kind of proof via testing that the site is cleaned up and meets DEP standards.
Apparently, TCE is a non-aqueous (will not dissolve in water) liquid that is more dense than water and will sink through the soils and water and continue to penetrate further into the ground. Remediation of it requires more work than something simple like a gasoline spill. I would assume that means that means that even going 12 feet down may not be an acceptable fix given the length of time that the spills have been there.
Given the fact that this is a hillside community there is a significant concern of offsite contamination since this stuff travels downhill.
If developer is serious about cleaning up contamination properly then he ought to have no problems issuing a bond that would be utilized to clean up any contamination later found in the community after he has sold and moved on. Hope this helps.
Sigh. Every horrible thought I have had is true? This TCE laden site is as horrible as everyone says it is? And what about the 4th big contamination point Keith Hartman keeps trying to get people to pay attention to? Cesspools, mineral salts leeching into the creek?
I have grave concerns given what the developer said they are doing at the Zoning Hearing Board Meeting. Remember the exchange I noted between the Delaware Riverkeeper and a developer witness, whom I believe was an engineer?
I was taking notes like crazy and this one exchange was so interesting – I did my best to be accurate but again I do not take dictation and I am not a court reporter, although there was one there:
Maya: “I would have you speak to what in fact what is left for DEP to to review and decide upon and what process is still left?
Two – There also seems to be this suggestion that anytime additional contaminants are found that they are going to be cleaned up, and so this site is going to be cleaned up…and so I would like you to speak to this issue of whether or not in fact when you are done at this site that all of the TCE and toxic contaminants will be removed, so people don’t have to be concerned about it, or in fact is that not true and you have specifically and carefully with all your communications with DEP actually limited the scope of your remediation including not going to uhhh saturated soils for example, 12 feet below ground surface, etc?”
Witness for developer: “That’s absolutely correct.”
Maya cuts back in “You are not? You are limiting, you are capping how much work you will do and you will intentionally leave contaminants on the site and people need to know that.”
Witness “That is correct. Allow me to explain in a way that is no way nefarious…”
He (witness) goes on to explain liability and an old consent order (??is that right???) with DEP and state version of hazardous clean up – PRPs – potentially responsible parties. He goes on into known contamination beyond the scope of their legal responsibility – about how they will clean up so much and then it seems it will be up to DEP to enforce clean up by PRP potentially responsible parties that I guess are former manufacturing occupiers of site?
Witness acknowledges issues, discusses how developer will be doing more beyond satisfying their part of old (?) consent order (?) and will excavate three known soil contamination issues of the site above water table, excavate, clean up according to most stringent PA standard, residential statewide heath standard…acknowledges caused contamination of groundwater on site that migrates off site, affects tributaries of Little Valley Creek. They believe their soil excavations will have a beneficial effect towards clean up.
(Deep breath) Look at what was sent to me today with regard to suggestions, and put it side by side with what the developer is doing…it’s NOT enough what they are suggesting, is it? And I am sorry I do NOT buy that super sized density is the ONLY way to get this cleaned up, do you? I accept the site will be developed, I have for years. But not without the proper clean up and remediation and is this place ever going to be truly safe for people to ever live there? Maybe a NON-residential use would still be the best solution? And the other day I heard homeless hang out there?
Bishop Tube is a KNOWN problem child and has been known since the plant was still open. I have heard from reliable sources that former union guys there who are still alive are VERY concerned about this getting cleaned up. And comments from General Warren Village residents are the same. Referring to it as a “cancer belt” back there, listing neighbors who were also in a lot of cases former Bishop Tube workers who died horrible deaths from scary cancers, respiratory issues.
Things are thankfully different today, and given the current temperature in Washington DC we have to stay on top of elected officials to make sure we all stay protected. But given how different things are today I find it difficult to comprehend that the Pennsylvania DEP hasn’t done more on this site, hasn’t been more proactive on clean-up.
After all, it has been years and years.
Queue Daily Local 2007 article (again):
…..Hartman, 51, started working at Bishop Tube in 1973 and worked alongside his father, who worked at the plant for 42 years. Both were millwrights and worked in maintenance.
Worst, 53, started in 1972 and worked in a variety of jobs and was president of Local 7566 of the AFL-CIO United Steel Workers of America in 1988 and 1989. He left Bishop Tube in 1989.
In an interview in February, Worst recalled what it was like working at the plant.
“There were large clouds of trichlor fumes that floated through the plant every day. I distinctly remember how it smelled,” he said.
Keith Hartman and Lester Hartman used to work in what was known as the trichlor pit surrounding the vapor degreaser area in building No. 8, the area of the heaviest TCE contamination on the site…..
“There would be two people down in the pit and a spotter above. We’d be down there for hours. When you came out, you felt dizzy, drunk, and there was a tingling sensation in your hands,” Hartman recalled.
“One guy they used to have to carry out. Afterwards, we’d go to the lunch room to wait until the effect wore off. I always wondered why the supervisors never bothered us when we were up in the lunchroom,” he said.
Hartman recalled another Bishop Tube employee, Charles McDonough, who also worked in the pit. He died of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. Another employee who worked in the pit is Calvin Chandler, 84. Chandler has emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Worst and Hartman said their colleagues Jack Laidley, William Reidfern, Eddie Blain and Paul Blain all had died of cancer. Reidfern also had heart disease.
Three fellow workers suffered from cancerous neck tumors. Bill Hines of West Goshen had a malignant cancer on his neck and died. Irvin Whistler has a cancerous tumor on his neck but has survived. Raymond Buckwalter, another resident of General Warren Village, has a tumor on his neck that turned malignant and now suffers from lung cancer….In 2005, Brian O’Neill of O’Neill Property Group purchased the site for $700,000 through his affiliate, Constitution Drive Partners, and signed an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to jointly clean it up. The plan is to keep the buildings and convert it for light industrial use.
There are all these EPA Acts now:
Summary of the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act
Summary of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund) (CERCLA)
The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Laws and Regulations
Manufacturing concerns operate under the above today. Their employees have to have training and I believe annual re-certification under these Federal Laws.
Creating as little as slightly over 2 pounds of hazardous waste today brings a facility under RCRA rules, for example. If Bishop Tube was a site generator today they would be registered with the EPA and have a special site identifier number.
Now, here is something: if you research the EPA and these laws I believe you will see that the EPA clearly lists wastes that are hazardous if improperly disposed of – 400 substances known to be harmful to human health AND the environment. These things can be ignitable, corrosive, toxic or reactive. They could be solids, liquids, or gases – things like TCE, battery acid, mercury, spent solvents right?
Penalties for violations of improper disposal can be up to $1 MILLION dollars and jail time of 15 years, so can someone please explain why the PA DEP is dicking around with Bishop Tube? Sorry to be vulgar, but my God, they KNOW it’s bad, right? remember the 2008 report by the US Department of health and Human Services?
BEFORE anything gets zoning variances or final plan approvals, CLEAN UP.
And I know for a fact that residents in General Warren have been in contact with PA DEP.
Mostly (trying to be fair) can it be said they get patted on the head and told that they are working towards choosing a remedy for the site?
And why is it a year ago residents reported construction activity on the Bishop Tube site complete with giant debris clouds wafting into nearby neighborhoods? O’Neill has significant brownfields experience BUT can the same be said of Benson?
People in General Warren are terrified. Old timers, multi-generational residents, new residents. It doesn’t matter. They want to be safe, they want people who may or may not live or use the Bishop Tube site in the future to be safe and again why so long to clean things up there? Back when the PA DEP was starting to pay attention to Bishop Tube, why didn’t they start to remediate THEN? You know when there was more money for remediation? Remember their press release circa 2007?
MALVERN, Pa., May 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- During a visit to the
former Bishop Tube site in Chester County, Environmental Protection
Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty talked about the importance of a program that
helps the state respond to environmental emergencies, clean contaminated
sites, protect the public's health and promote economic growth....
Bishop Tube was founded in 1842 for the manufacture of gold and
platinum alloys for technical and industrial uses. It was also used as a
metal fabrication facility in the 1950s. However, after a number of
different owners, operations stopped in 1999, leaving behind a legacy of
contamination that included TCE, nitric acid, hydrofluoric acid and heavy
metals, including nickel and chromium. TCE is the primary contaminant of
Through HSCA, DEP has worked to investigate and assess the
contamination at the site, maintain a safe water supply for an affected
nearby resident, develop remediation alternatives, and facilitate public
participation in selecting a remedial plan. Currently, the fund is helping
to install a system that addresses shallow groundwater contamination at the
Additionally, the site's new owner -- Constitution Drive Partners LP --
has entered into an unprecedented cost sharing partnership with DEP whereby
Constitution addresses the contaminated soil and DEP addresses the
contaminated, shallow groundwater. Soil remediation is expected to take 2-3
years to complete, but groundwater remediation will take much longer.
To date, DEP's investigation of the contamination has cost more than $1
million and it is expected that an additional $700,000 is needed to
complete the onsite shallow groundwater remediation. All DEP work has been
made possible through the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act.
General Warren residents and other concerned residents? Please take the time for meeting tomorrow. I know these meetings aren’t fun, I have done my time at them over the years BUT you need to advocate for yourself and your fellow neighbors. You can’t depend on elected and appointed officials to be clairvoyant. Packed boardrooms send a message. If you can entice media to cover you, even better. Sunshine makes the world go round, right?
Here is the list of media that residents can contact to ask them to give coverage to Bishop Tube:
1) Daily Local News:
2) Philadelphia Inquirer:
3) CBS 3:
4) ABC 6:
5) NBC 10:
6) Fox 29:
Here is DEP info – Residents can and should contact them directly with questions and concerns. As is the case with elected officials, township employees, and media, just try your best to be polite.
Division of Hazardous Waste
Bureau of Waste Management
PA Department of Environmental Protection
14th Floor Rachel Carson State Office Building
PO Box 69170
Harrisburg PA 17106-9170
Tom Mellott — Division Chief, Hazardous Waste Management
Melissa Gross — Chief, Compliance and Information Management
Glenn Mitzel — Chief, Permitting and Technical Support
DEP REGIONAL OFFICE CONTACTS
SOUTHEAST REGIONAL OFFICE
DEP Southeast Regional Office
2 E. Main Street Norristown, PA 19401-4915.
Phone: 484 250-5900 (24 hours/day)
Acting Regional Director: Anderson Hartzell
Counties served: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia.