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Neighbors' concerns: How valid are they?

Font Size:big - mid - smallehangzhouhengke   Release time 09-05-08 13:30     view:1418   coomment:0   source:

Neighbors' concerns: How valid are they?

 

Bill Cluck claims to have found  multiple "misstatements'' and other irregularities associated with the entire Northwest Gateway Project.

But Cluck, attorney for a group of neighbors who live near the dump and call themselves The Rail Road Action and Advisory Committee, is especially disturbed by the dump remediation process.

Project sponsors won't talk to him, so Cluck has obtained much of his information about the remediation through state and federal Right-to-Know requests.

The New Era has reviewed these materials and discussed four of Cluck's concerns with local, state and federal officials. Findings have been mixed.

DEP's verbal approval

Cluck says Franklin & Marshall College made a false statement in applying last December for a $1 million Growing Greener grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to help clean up the dump.

The application claimed that another state agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, already had approved its $1 million grant for that purpose.

That wasn't true, says Cluck. DEP did not approve the grant until March.

But Tracey Vernon, acting deputy secretary of the DEP's Office of Community Revitalization and Local Government Support, says the agency had provided a verbal commitment last autumn.

"The verbal agreement was contingent on receiving the appropriate documentation, which was forthcoming," says Vernon. "So there was no problem to say they had a commitment."

But Cluck says a verbal agreement on a Growing Greener grant is "very troubling."

A "false statement" on an application for funding is a problem, he adds, because "they're misleading this agency (DCED) into thinking DEP has already approved this project."

Not so, says Luke Webber, a spokesman for DCED: "That would not be a factor in our decision on approval of this project."

DCED is still reviewing the application.

Who pays the bill?

Cluck believes the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, which now owns the former municipal dump, should pay for remediation.

"When there's a viable party responsible for contamination," Cluck says, "the state shouldn't pay to clean it up."

Instead, LCSWMA will be paid a substantial part of the $4.5 million set aside for the remediation project to bury waste from the dump in the Frey Farm Landfill along the Susquehanna River.

Then it will get more money to provide clean fill from the Frey Landfill to replace the material removed from the dump.

DEP's $1 million will help pay the $4.5 million bill. Keith Orris, the F&M vice president who is managing the project, says he has not yet determined how the rest of the bill will be divided between state and private sources.

Cluck claims it is "unprecedented" for an owner of a landfill to move material to another landfill it also owns and ask the state to pay the bill.

But the state does have a stake in this change, counters Kathy Horvath, special project manager of DEP's regional environmental cleanup program.

She says the waste is going from "an unlined dump to a permanent landfill" with strict environmental controls.

Adds the DEP's Vernon, "It's a typical remediation activity. It's not unusual for the state to put funding into brownfield remediation and get it ready for redevelopment."

Counters Cluck, "Typical brownfield cleanups do not include landfills with viable parties (as owners). State funding is for abandoned dumps."

Who monitors floodplain?

Cluck asked Rebecca Buchanan, resource conservationist with the Lancaster County Conservation District, if any part of the remediation work lies within the 100-year floodplain.

If so, any work there ordinarily would be regulated by Manheim Township to protect the Little Conestoga Creek from eroded materials, especially during stormwater runoff.

Buchanan told Cluck that cells 4-14 of the 44 cells to be remediated seem to be in the floodplain.

When the New Era asked Buchanan what that finding meant, she said that it  did not stop the conservation district from approving the project, but "Manheim Township should have reviewed all proposed excavation within the floodplain."

Manheim Township did not review the plans.

But John Krueger, manager of the DEP's regional environmental cleanup program, says the state's understanding is that none of the dump is in the floodplain, so it's not an issue.

Ned Wehler, CEO of the ARM Group, the project's environmental engineers, explains the discrepancy.

He says his engineers originally provided an incorrect floodplain map and later supplied a corrected map. The location of the floodplain changed from the old map to the new one, he notes, but that never affected the area to be remediated.

When the New Era asked Buchanan about that, she said her understanding is that ARM corrected its mistake by shifting its work so that it would not be digging in the floodplain.

"We were always going to work outside the floodplain," counters Wehler. "That's what all documents always said."

"This is another example of questionable data provided by the environmental consultant," observes Cluck. "It shows why Manheim Township should have been involved."

On the advice of the township's and the project's attorneys, however, the township determined that it had no jurisdiction over the project because federal railroad law preempts local involvement.

But Cluck argues that dump remediation is not part of Norfolk Southern's yard construction project and should not be governed by federal law.

He says the federal Surface Transportation Board, an agency that has jurisdiction over railroad issues, should have been asked if federal law preempts local regulations.

The New Era has contacted the Surface Transportation Board, which replies as a board, not as individuals.

The board says no one asked it to consider the Norfolk Southern project and it does not comment specifically on matters that are not before it. The board has jurisdiction in such projects but no authorization to pre-approve them.

The board would not say whether digging up a dump associated with a transportation project specifically would be preempted.

But it has provided two decisions in other cases that suggest that local regulations targeted at any part of a project involving rail transportation are preempted by federal law.

"The question remains, who's overseeing this?" Cluck asks. "It's not the conservation district. DEP doesn't have the manpower to get out there (as often as TRRAAC would like). The township has taken a hands-off position. How do we know this is being done properly?"

Asbestos in stormwater?

Cluck says ARM's application to the Lancaster Area Sewer Authority for permission to pump out the remediation pits during a storm does not consider the potential for asbestos to be in the stormwater.

Therefore, he says, the filter bag LASA uses on such occasions is not the proper size to hold back asbestos and LASA should not have given a permit to the project.

"There's a failure to disclose a potential of the presence of asbestos-containing material in stormwater that is not going to be properly filtered before it is discharged to the sewage treatment facility," Cluck says.

But ARM's Wehler says an asbestos filter is not needed because there will be no asbestos in the water.

"For asbestos to become a part of stormwater," he explains, "it would have to become a form that would be transferred to water. We don't have any samples of water with asbestos in them."

"If you're not looking for it," Cluck says, "you're not going to find it."

Cluck questioned LASA about the matter. LASA's executive director, Mike Kyle, says he answered Cluck's question in a letter.

Cluck says he received the letter, but not an answer. "They did not respond to my concerns about potential asbestos fibers to be in the stormwater."

Says Kyle, "The permit still stands."

As of Wednesday, no water had been pumped into the LASA system

 



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