John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Environment Category

John Mack Lists Elcon Pollutants DEP May Allow

On May 11, 2016, Newtown Township adopted Resolution 2016-R-10, opposing the Elcon Toxic Waste incinerator. This is a commercial hazardous waste treatment facility that will treat liquid waste from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

That resolution states that the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors “oppose the construction of this facility and further urges the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency and the Falls Township Board of Supervisors to consider the danger of the proposed hazardous 'thermal oxidizer' facility at the Keystone Port Complex in Falls Township to Newtown residents and Delaware Valley residents.”

According to a recent article in The Intelligencer, “for the fourth time in as many years, Elcon Recycling Services is resubmitting application materials in an attempt to build a controversial waste treatment facility in Falls” about 13 miles from Newtown.

Groups such as Bucks POWA [Protect Our Water & Air] and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network say they’re specifically concerned about toxic materials being released to the air and potential drinking water contamination if this incinerator is approved.

On March 4, 2019, I attended a public meeting hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to answer questions from the public. The meeting was jammed packed.

DEP officials reviewed the status of waste management, air quality, and stormwater management permit applications for this facility. There was a lot of chemistry discussed and even though I have advanced degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, it was difficult to follow all the technical details. However, I was surprised to learn the amount of toxic pollutants the proposed permit would allow to be released into the air.

I summarized the amount of pollutants the proposed permit would allow at the March 13, 2019, Board of Supervisors meeting:

Proposed “emission limits” in the recent PA DEP Definition permit application: nitrogen oxides – 23.4 tons per year; carbon monoxide – 36.6 tons per year; sulfur oxides – 24.2 tons per year; volatile organic compounds – 10.1 tons per year; particulate matter – 10.5 tons per year; for hydrochloric acid – 6.3 tons per year!

Note that the 2016 Newtown Resolution opposing this project estimated that “the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions” whereas the recent data I just cited adds up to more than 111 tons – or nearly three times as much!

DEP has yet to do an analysis of where these pollutants would be carried by air currents.

Posted on 17 Mar 2019, 10:16 - Category: Environment

PFAS Detected in Newtown Township's Water Supply

By now, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, and some Middletown residents have received a letter from the Newtown Artesian Water Company (NAWCO) alerting customers that “a recent round of [water source] samples have shown detectable limits” of Perfluorinated Compounds (i.e., PFOS and PFOA Definition) aka PFAS.

Letter I received on February 11, 2019

Previously, at the August 8, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Dan Angove, the NAWCO’s Assistant General Manager, reported that the levels of these compounds in Newtown’s drinking water was “nondectable”; i.e., below 5 parts per trillion (ppt).

The letter does not mention the exact amounts of these contaminants in recent samples but refers residents to the NAWCO website (www.newtownwater.com) to find the results of measurements. The following chart is based on that data.

NAWCO complies with the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s “safe” level of 70 ppt for these contaminants – the same as the U.S. EPA’s designated Health Advisory Level. This limit has been widely criticized. As reported recently in the Bucks County Courier Times newspaper (here), State Sen. Maria Collett, D-12, of Lower Gwynedd, introduced a bill that would establish a 10 ppt drinking water limit for PFOS, PFOA, and two other chemicals. New Jersey already set a limit of 14 ppt for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. Some scientists call for a limit as low as 1 ppt.

NAWCO says “YES! The water provided by NAWCO is safe to drink and is well below the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory levels for PFOA/PFOS (70 parts per trillion). Both the EPA and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) consider this level protective of public health.”

Despite declaring the water “safe” by PA DEP standards, the NAWCO – out of an abundance of caution – removed from service two sources of water (wells 14 and 18) “pending further tests.”

One has to wonder, however, if the levels of these contaminants in Newtown’s drinking will increase rather than decrease. The U.S. Navy is investigating the migration paths of PFOA and PFOS in the ground water originating from the Naval Air Station and Horsham Air Guard Station in Willow Grove and former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster [see story embedded below]. “(The base) is on an elevated plateau, so water will pretty much discharge in every direction,” a project manager with Navy environmental contractor Battelle said.

Posted on 12 Feb 2019, 01:54 - Category: Environment

Newtown Passes "Year of the Bird" Proclamation

Newtown Township has been a designated bird town community for many years, regularly sponsoring events to promote conservation. In 2019 the Newtown Environmental Action Council (EAC Definition) and the Pennsylvania Audubon’s Society will be jointly developing and implementing a new program promoting the use of native plants to support bird population.

At the November 28, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, a plaque was presented to George Skladany, member of the EAC, to commemorate 2018 as the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, protecting migratory birds for many decades.

The Township also passed the “Year of the Bird” Proclamation, which states:

Whereas, Birds symbolize nature’s interconnectedness and the importance of caring for our shared planet; and 

Whereas, Birds are important for pollination, pest control, rodent control, seed propagation, weed control, nutrient recycling, and beauty; and bird watching is beneficial to mental health; and 

Whereas, Each spring and fall hundreds of thousands of migratory songbirds fly through Newtown Township and are sited at Tyler State Park, Clark Nature Center, and Hidden Lake; and are counted by local bird watchers; and 

Whereas, Over 160 species of birds are recorded in Newtown Township and many of these migrate through or are residents of the township that they use for food and shelter; and 

Whereas, Six species of birds that are listed on the Conservation Network as “Birds of Concern,” in need of conservation actions, are recorded in Newtown Township including American Kestrel, Wood Thrush, Canada Warbler, Willow Flycatcher, Black‐throated Blue Warbler, and American Woodcock; and 

Whereas, Birding Activities bring people into Newtown Township and aid the economy, an example of where birds thrive – people prosper; and 

Whereas, Climate change is the number one threat to birds; and 

Whereas, 2018 is the centennial year of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which protects birds in our backyards, like the Wood Thrush and Eastern Towhee; and 

Whereas, 2018 also marks the beginning of the next 100 years where we will continue to protect birds and the places they need. 

SO PROCLAIMED, We, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, by virtue of the authority vested therein, do hereby proclaim 2018 the Year of the Bird and urge all citizens to take due note of the observance and to support the spirit of this proclamation for years to come. 

Posted on 27 Dec 2018, 13:08 - Category: Environment

Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator: Déjà vu All Over Again

According to a recent article in The Intelligencer, “for the fourth time in as many years, Elcon Recycling Services is resubmitting application materials in an attempt to build a controversial waste treatment facility in Falls” about 13 miles from Newtown (read “Elcon Reapplies to DEP for Toxic Waste Facility Located Next to Delaware River”).

“Groups such as Bucks POWA [Protect Our Water & Air] and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network say they’re specifically concerned about toxic materials being released to the air and potential drinking water contamination should an accident or flood release chemicals into the nearby Delaware River.”

The site, notes the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, has several wetlands that are hydrologically connected to Biles Creek, a tributary of the Delaware. “Railcars will pass within the 50-foot regulated buffer.  It is, while outside the 100-year floodplain, is clearly within the 500-year floodplain. That sounds like its safe, but it is not. The Delaware River Basin Commission, the City of Philadelphia and other entities focusing on making their communities more resilient due to climate change and sea-level rise are now recommending that critical facilities and infrastructure should not be built within the 500-year floodplain.  The DRBC and City state that ‘critical facilities, such as schools, police departments and fire departments’ should not be constructed within the 500-year floodplain.”

On May, 11, 2016, the Newtown Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution 2016-R-10, opposing the Elcon Toxic Waste incinerator. The Resolution, which can be found at the end of this post, makes several claims.

For example, “the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions containing, among other pollutants, nitrous oxide (NOS), ammonia (NH3), hydrochloric acid (HCL), volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulfur oxide (SOX) and total particulate matter” and “studies show that after treatments, the waste will still contain unacceptable levels of Mercury, Cadmium, and Lead.”

No citations of the “studies” mentioned in the Resolution were included in the wording. Perhaps this resolution should be amended to include the evidence for such claims and updated with new information to make it stronger. This, IMHO, would help get the issue before the public again and reaffirm Newtown’s opposition to this incinerator.

UPDATE (10/11/2018):

************RESOLUTION 2016-R-10***************

A Resolution of the Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township in opposition to the Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator Plant at the Keystone Industrial Park in Falls Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

WHEREAS; Eleon Recycling Services, an Israel based company, is applying to build a hazardous waste incinerator plant in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex in Falls Township, PA, 800 yards from the Delaware River, which is 13.5 miles from Newtown, PA; and

WHEREAS; air pollutants can travel 100 miles. The air quality is adversely affected within a 30 mile radius and can affect people with allergies, asthma, auto-immune disorders, elderly with COPD, and heart conditions; and

WHEREAS; The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has stated that this will be a commercial hazardous waste treatment facility that will treat liquid waste from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries; and

WHEREAS; the plant will process 210,000 tons of raw wastewater per year that will include extremely high levels of Mercury, Cadmium, and Lead; and

WHEREAS; studies show that after treatments, the waste will still contain unacceptable levels of Mercury, Cadmium, and Lead; and

WHEREAS; the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions containing, among other pollutants, nitrous oxide (NOS), ammonia (NH3), hydrochloric acid (HCL), volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulfur oxide (SOX) and total particulate matter; and

WHEREAS; Elcon recycling only has plants operating in Israel and has been denied in other countries due to environmental issues created by such treatment plants; and

WHEREAS; Elcon Recycling's Haifa Bay plant in Israel, due to its history of violations of air and groundwater emissions, and its negative impact and pollution to the surrounding environment in Haifa Bay, has been ordered to shut down and relocate to a remote desert location in Israel; and

WHEREAS; Elcon has applied for 596 different kinds of toxins, producing 800 tons of hazardous sludge per year and 5,000 tons of hazardous salts to be trucked in from 10 states: MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, V A, and NC; and

WHEREAS; given the extremely close proximity to the Delaware River and located in a high residential population where over 10,000 children attend school within 4 miles and due to the high possibility of spillage, pollution would affect the Delaware River to the Chesapeake and beyond; and

WHEREAS; the Philadelphia Water Department wrote in their testimony to the Department of Environmental Protection to decline permit to build in this location. The

PWD stated that if a leak or spill were to occur, it would be a Catastrophic Event that would affect millions of people's water supply and would cause the termination of drinking water for an indeterminate amount of time; and

WHEREAS; the Delaware River is a primary source of drinking water and recreation; and

WHEREAS; while the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors realizes the need for proper disposal and treatment of all toxic waste generated, it needs to be done in a safe location with the least impact to human and wildlife populations and the surrounding local supporting eco systems of such; and

WHEREAS, Newtown Township understands the need for intra municipal cooperation across municipal lines as environmental challenges cross municipal lines; existing zoning and land development rules are not always appropriate to solve all environmental challenges such as toxic water and air crossing municipal borders; and

WHEREAS, Elcon will be in violation of the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, the Wild and Scenic River Act, the Federal Clean Water Act, and the Delaware River Basin Commission Act (and Regulations) and the Delaware Estuary Toxic Management Program.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Board of Supervisors of Newtown

Township, Bucks County, PA, that it does hereby oppose the construction of this facility and further urges the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency and the Falls Township Board of Supervisors to consider the danger of the proposed hazardous "thermal oxidizer" facility at the Keystone Port Complex in Falls Township to Newtown residents and Delaware Valley residents.

RESOLVED and ENACTED this 11th Day of May, 2016.

Posted on 22 May 2018, 01:06 - Category: Environment

Newtown Artesian Water Company's Response to Cyanide Dumping Issue

As you may know, it was recently reported in Newtown Patch (February 14, 2018) and other local news outlets that a Merck chemist allegedly stole potassium cyanide – a highly toxic chemical – and dumped it down a public stormwater inlet in the area of County Line and Street roads, between Easton Road and Second Street Pike. Depending on where the chemical was allegedly dumped, it would've been discharged to either Neshaminy Creek or Pennypack Creek, police said. This happened in December, 2017. Read more about it here.

Many people have commented online that authorities should have warned them sooner. "So if this happened on December 15 why are we just now hearing about this?," said one commentator.

I spoke to Daniel Angove, Assistant General Manager at the Newtown Artesian Water Company, who assured me that this was never a threat to Newtown’s water supply because the company purchases water north (upstream) from where the chemical was dumped

“There never was concern about our water,” said Angove, “and if there was, our customers would be the first ones to know.”

He went on to explain that the company has a reverse 911 system for immediate threats. This would place a call to everyone who has their information in the system. If it were a less serious, localized problem, the company would hang information on doors in the affected neighborhoods as well as use news outlets and social media to notify people. “People would know and they wouldn’t have to wait and learn about it in Newtown Patch” weeks afterward, said Mr. Angove.

I'm not sure what "social media" Angove is talking about. There are no social media links on the company's website and very few posts - none recent - on its Facebook page.

Mr. Angrove told me that he was willing to come before the Newtown Board of Supervisors on an annual basis to give a status on the water system. Recall that upon the request of the Newtown Board of Supervisors, Mr. Angove reported on the quality of water and concerns of carcinogens based on a newspaper article published in the August 4, 2017, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times. Mr. Angove discounted an independent study that found 7 carcinogens - including chromium-6 that was featured in the movie "Erin Brockovich" - in Newtown's water. Read more about that here.

Posted on 15 Feb 2018, 15:47 - Category: Environment

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