Berks Gas Truth and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network questioned representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Jan. 26 about contamination on the site of the proposed Birdsboro power plant during a meeting organized by Sen. Judy Schwank. The agency’s representatives were not prepared to address specific questions raised about by the environmental groups.
Remediation efforts are now underway at the proposed power plant site. However, the company that plans to operate the power plant recently filed a lawsuit against the federal government seeking to recover cleanup costs, which has raised questions about the extent of PCB and other contamination on the site as well as potential migration of contaminants offsite. When asked about possibility for PCB contamination of the soil at the Optimist Field baseball diamond, which is located adjacent to the proposed power plant site, the PADEP’s representatives claimed to be unaware of the ballfield’s existence. The PADEP representatives were also unaware of potential asbestos contamination associated with the smokestacks that were demolished in December 2016, contamination that could have been worsened by the stacks’ demolition.
Berks Gas Truth initially requested the meeting after learning about the lawsuit filed by Birdsboro Power LLC for the cost of cleaning up “significant remaining contamination.” Berks Gas Truth and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network had commented on concerns about asbestos, PCBs, and other contamination on the site at a public hearing held by PA DEP in November. Those concerns were validated later that month when Birdsboro Power’s lawsuit was filed just days after a chlorine gas canister buried on the site was punctured, injuring a worker.
“Our concerns extend beyond the presence of contaminants on the site,” said Karen Feridun, Kutztown, founder of Berks Gas Truth. “We are also concerned that the public has been given virtually no information about the level of contamination and, therefore, has been denied the ability to fully engage in the public participation processes conducted by both the PA DEP and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We are calling on both agencies to conduct robust and transparent reviews of the power plant project and its supporting natural gas pipeline, electric transmission line, and waterline. Public meetings should be held to inform residents of the affected communities about the contamination. Comment periods on all state and federal pending permits and certificates should be reopened to allow an informed public to weigh in.”
The groups are also calling on state legislators who represent the affected communities and Governor Wolf to require Birdsboro Power LLC to make public the Phase 1 and Phase 2 environmental site assessments that were prepared in 2016. Phase 1 and Phase 2 environmental site assessments are prepared to help a prospective landowner evaluate environmental issues on a site before purchase. These documents could also include proposed remediation methods and estimates for the cost of cleanup. According to the PADEP representatives at the Jan. 26 meeting, the agency has never received nor requested copies.