Wednesday, December 7, 2016

DEP Took 8,000 Gallons of Pollution Off Oil Site

Photos by Evan Brandt
Barely 30 people attended the public hearing Tuesday night regarding the state's clean-up of the former home heating oil site that was the source of contamination of many area drinking water wells.

The hearing, held at Boyertown Junior High East in New Hanover, was specific to the discovery and draining of a buried pit on the site from which more than 8,000 gallons of dangerous chemicals were removed in July.

The DEP discovered the pit as the result of a deposition given by the property's effective owner Ethan Good (legally the property is owned by trusts under Good's control) in legal proceedings in which he agreed to pay for the clean-up there.

The operation at the site along Route 663, 334 Layfield Road, was once known as Swann Oil, and then the Good Oil Co.

DEP photo of the pit at the Good Oil property
Colin Wade, the DEP official in charge of the investigation of the site, said the liquid found in the pit contained "weathered petroleum, chlorinated solvents, pesticides" and a by-product of petroleum known as poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.

Responding to a question from state Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-147th Dist., Wade said that contrary to what she had first been told, the materials taken out of the pit are "similar" to the pollutants which leached into the groundwater and poisoned area wells.

The discovery of that pollution in 2011, resulted in public water being extended to numerous homes in the area at a cost of $2 million in taxpayer dollars. (This is the money Good has agreed to pay back.)

Wade also said the estimated cost of the removal was about $150,000 and that the contaminants were incinerated off-site at a licensed disposal facility.
State Rep. Marcy Toepel asks a question.

Also, pipes that emptied into the pit, and which seemed to have come from the garage at the facility, where a truck washing operation as well as heating oil storage and sales were once housed, were also discovered.

When asked by Chris Mullaney, an attorney for the Ban the Quarry group, why it took so long to find something so many people seemed to know about, Wade said DEP interviewed former employees and longtime residents, but could not located the pit, which was buried 10-feet underground -- this despite using ground-penetrating radar.

"It's always difficult to find out where people dumped something 40 years ago," said Wade.

DEP Official Colin Wade speaks at the hearing.
Accordingly, Wade said while the discovery of the pit indicates DEP has found one location of "significant" pollution, it will continue to investigate the site and search for more potential sources of contamination.

Mullaney suggested that DEP expand its search to property Gibraltar Rock purchased from Good in December, 2014 that is adjacent to the contamination site and is currently being proposed for expanded quarry operations.

"It's unbelievable, the quantity, variety and intensity of the chemicals found on in the samples," Mullaney said. He added that the Ban the Quarry group is concerned Gibraltar's proposed quarry operation will draw more chemicals out of the ground water and into the open, posing a further threat.

The map on this map shows the area of groundwater
contamination. The proposed quarry operations can be
seen adjacent to the contamination area.
"We hope it doesn't happen, but we're worried," he said.

"It's frightening not to have this (Good Oil) property totally clean before they start quarrying," Bob Meyers said Tuesday.

Currently, the New Hanover Zoning Hearing Board is taking testimony about Gibraltar's proposed expanded quarry operations onto the site adjacent to the former Good Oil.

Experts for Gibraltar said the operation would not draw much if any further pollution, which an expert hired by the township maintains that is a very real possibility and that the methods proposed for treating any contamination found are inadequate.

The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the township building and William "Ross" Snook, the newly appointed chairman of the township's environmental advisory council, is expected to testify.

In the meantime, here are the Tweets from Tuesday night's meeting.

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