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Urgent Help Needed

LET’S STOP ELCON! PADEP is seeking public comment

COMMENT DEADLINE IS JULY 15, 2019

HOW TO SUBMIT COMMENT TO PADEP (talking points are provided after the jump)

Everyone, no matter how young or old, no matter which side of the River you live on, no matter how much expertise you have, should write comment. To STOP Elcon, we need to let DEP know there are many people against this project – against risking our environment, our public safety and health and the quality of life for ourselves and future generations.

Falls Township unanimously rejected Elcon's proposal on April 30th, but Elcon is already suing them. The PA DEP issued a "draft" decision, with the intent to reject Elcon's permit application, at the end of May. It is important that we do what we can to support the DEP's decision during the current official comment period, so the decision to reject Elcon becomes permanent.

Elcon will do their best to make the DEP change their mind.

If you want to help STOP Elcon, please send your comment to PADEP by July 15th. You can do any of the following:

A) Fill out the form below and submit you comment electronically:

B) E-mail your comment to RA-EPHWELCON@pa.gov

C) OR send your comment by mail to:

The Department of Environmental Protection, Waste Management
Southeast Regional Office
2 East Main Street,
Norristown, PA 19401

  • Please include all reasonably available references you have, factual grounds and supporting material.
  • IF you have any expertise (and that is not a requirement) you can refer to, such as health related, chemical, water/flooding, real estate agent, etc. that would definitely be helpful. If so, please include your background or credentials. You can also write on behalf of an organization, club, etc.

SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS FOR YOUR COMMENT TO PADEP

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network hired Meliora Design, an engineering firm with years of experience in reviewing industrial site designs and potential impacts of industrial projects like Elcon. Meliora gave verbal testimony and presented their report to Falls Township Board of Supervisors on April 29, 2019. Below are the critical technical issues and concerns they found and are just as relevant to PADEP’s permit review as they were with Falls Township’s.

MELIORA DESIGN CONCLUDED THAT

  1. Elcon’s proposed development does not adequately protect the public health of nearby community members and all citizens downstream of the site, especially those who use the Delaware River as a drinking water source.
  2. Elcon’s proposed development design does not protect nearby water resources from hazardous chemicals that will be imported and handled on site, and that the potential for contamination of water resources is high.

FLOODING AND POTENTIAL SITE INUNDATION

  1. The elevation of the wetlands adjacent to the site is at elevation 10 feet, and nearby Biles Creek connects directly to the Delaware River and would likely reflect the River water surface elevation during an extreme event such as the 100-year flood. In the event of a 100-year flood, both the proposed stormwater basin ((elevation 11.25’ (12.67’ with an upturned elbow)) and the proposed storm sewer system of the Elcon facility will be lower than the Delaware flood elevation. It is not clear that the stormwater system will function, and it may surcharge (i.e. back-up and over-flow). Some proposed facility units, such as the Biological storage Tank (elevation 19.75) will be only slightly higher than the Delaware River 100-year flood elevation and are also at risk. We respectfully request DEP deny the Elcon application based on this flooding and water quality threat.
  2. We do not believe that the stormwater basin will function as designed, given the small elevation difference (1.25’) between the normal water surface elevation of the wetlands and the underdrain invert and that of a 100-year flood. The likelihood of flood inundation for this site is noteworthy and a concern under existing climate conditions, and the increase in likelihood under future altered climate conditions with which we can expect a greater intensity and frequency of storms in the northeast region of the United States posses a significant and avoidable threat to public safety and health and to the natural resources of the Delaware River. We respectfully request DEP deny the Elcon application based on this flooding and water quality threat.
  3. In a precipitation study, conducted by Dr. Richard Nalbandian, co-author Pennypack Creek Watershed Study, Temple University, 2006, for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, he states that “FEMA projected flood elevations are estimates that can vary by several feet vertically.” This uncertainty, combined with increased flood levels anticipated from climate change and larger storm surges, means that flood levels will almost certainly be higher in the very near future. The potential for site inundation, and inundation of the proposed stormwater system and basin is of significant concern and could result in the discharge of unknown quantities and types of contaminants to the Delaware River. We urge DEP to deny this application due to the potential flooding and the threat to public safety and health and the natural resources to the Delaware River.
  4. Furthermore, as the water elevations of the Delaware River, Biles Creek and the adjacent wetlands rise higher than Elcon’s stormwater basin during a rain or flood event, the stormwater basin and the underdrain invert will likely not be able to drain (i.e. “the tailwater effect”) as designed. This will divert the water over the emergency spillway more often than its intended use causing flashy discharges of large volumes of water and hazardous chemicals into the wetlands and eventually the Delaware River.

STORMWATER AND POTENTIAL DISCHARGE TO SURFACE WATERS

  1. The truck unloading area is graded towards a trench drain that directs stormwater runoff into the facility’s process waste stream. However, runoff from the remainder of the site, including truck stacking and access areas, will discharge to the stormwater basin. There is no pretreatment of stormwater and in the event of a spill or accident, materials will discharge to the basin. It is uncertain for what length of time incoming trucks will remain in the stacking area or elsewhere on the property. There is high potential of spill material from trucks that will maneuver through areas on the site besides the specified containment area(s). The applicant proposes to discharge runoff that is likely to contain hazardous waste from the recycling facility into a stormwater basin that discharges 50 feet from wetlands that are hydrologically connected to Biles Creek, which is a navigable waterway and tributary to the Delaware River.
  2. Elcon has indicated that stormwater collected from the truck unloading area will discharge to the process water. However, there is no indication that proposed “water quality filters” in some (but not all) inlets have the ability to remove the range of materials and pollutants proposed to be handled by this facility.
  3. Thanks to DEP’s insistence, the proposed stormwater basin will be lined with an impermeable liner. However, there is no information regarding the liner and its ability to withstand thevariety of chemicals and material handled at the facility that may enter the basin. This presents a threat to the drinking water supply for millions of Commonwealth and New Jersey residents and the natural resources of the Delaware River. We urge DEP to deny this application.
  4. The stormwater that enters the basin is anticipated to drain through two feet of amended soil and then drain through an underdrain to a level spreader. There is no indication or supporting information that this soil mix will be sufficient to treat the variety of chemicals that are expected to be handled on site.
  5. The basin is only designed to reduce peak flow rate, there is no volume reduction proposed (IES Response to DEP dated February 8, 2019, page 34). The site is entirely pervious in existing conditions and the proposed design will increase impervious area, thus increasing the amount of untreated runoff discharging to the wetlands on site and eventually the Delaware River.
  6. The site is 15 miles upstream of Philadelphia Water Department (PWD)’s Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant on the Delaware River. If any accidents were to occur at the Elcon waste facility, PWD would potentially have to close the Baxter Plant intake. On October 14, 2015, PWD recommended that Elcon’s Phase 1 Site Permit be denied. Given the list of hazardous materials that are likely to be imported and handled on site, we believe that their concern is warranted, and any further consideration of the application by the DEP is a blatant disregard for all people to whom the Delaware supplies drinking water.
  7. The water surface elevation of the wetlands (basin discharge area) is at 10.0’ and the basin underdrain invert is proposed at 11.25’ (12.67 feet with an upturned elbow). The construction of the basin may encounter rising groundwater and will almost certainly encounter wet conditions. The basin liner will experience hydrostatic pressure from the water below it. Any puncture in the liner throughout the basin’s lifetime would compromise the integrity of the basin’s ability to retain pollutants from reaching surface waters because the water in the basin would regularly interact with the groundwater.

EARTH MOVING AND FILLING THE FLOODPLAIN

  1. Filling of the floodplain reduces the lands’ capacity to reduce flooding, reduce flow velocity and naturally manage and treat floodwaters. We are against the filling of this floodplain area and urge DEP to deny this application based on the impacts to the floodplain and the people that live downstream.The proposed site will be 1.9 to 6.2 feet above the existing ground surface elevation. There will be a retaining wall surrounding the facilities, and the tallest section of the wall is proposed at 7.70 feet at the northern corner of the site. The total volume of fill required to raise the site is approximately 1.54 million cubic feet, assuming an average fill depth of 4.4 ft (average of random sampling) over a surface area of 349,168 sq ft..This is a considerable amount of fill to be trucked on site. The placement of fill in flood hazard areas has the potential to displace floodwaters, raise flood elevations and redirect floodwaters. Even though the FIRM shows that the site is in the 500-year floodplain (i.e. not subject to Special Flood Hazard Area regulatory requirements), the site has a high potential to become inundated in an extreme storm.

ZONING AND ZONING INCONSISTENCIES

  1. The proposed use by Elcon is not permitted by right nor by Conditional Use or Special Exception. There has been expert testimony given to Falls Township expressing great concerns that Falls Township Zoning Letter of Consistency, signed on August 1, 2017, is in direct contradiction of the Township Zoning Code. I urge PADEP to thoroughly review the current zoning and legality and compliance of Fall’s Letter of Consistency. Zoning is not only a Falls Township issue. It factors in to DEP’s Site criteria. We urge DEP to deny this application based on the zoning and zoning inconsistencies.