Source: http://www.pottsmerc.com, September 18, 2013
By: Evan Brandt
The state is stepping in to make sure a half-million-dollar environmental cleanup at a closed plating facility in the borough gets completed after the bankrupt owner stopped work.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Wednesday it would take over the removal of hazardous materials left over at the former Pottstown Plating on South Washington Street at the intersection with Industrial Highway.
The company, which performed electroplating, opened in 1950 and closed in 2009 just before going bankrupt, according to the DEP.
When the DEP inspected the site in 2009, it found a number of environmental issues that needed to be addressed and the company’s owners hied a contractor to removed hazardous waste there.
However, work stopped in 2010 “due to lack of funding,” and when the DEP issued an order for the clean-up to continue in October 2011, no further action was taken, according to the DEP release.
DEP spokesperson Lynda Rebarchak said the estimated cost for the cleanup is $553,851.
“Since this does not include off-site lab analysis costs, or extra funds for unexpected expenses, the final cost is likely to be higher,” she wrote in an email to The Mercury.
So far, there is no evidence there have been any releases into the environment.
Air monitoring was performed at the site on July 30 “and found no release into the atmosphere, through tanks, drums and totes of heavy metals, cyanides and sodium hydroxide remain, along with hydrochloric acid in on-site pumps,” according to the release.
“We just don’t want this to become a problem,” Rebarchak told The Mercury. “We want to get those materials out of there and to a proper disposal facility before anything happens.”
“The facility is unsecured and in disrepair,” Cosmo Servidio, DEP’s southeast regional director, said in the release. “At our most recent inspection, we found clear evidence of trespassing. DEP will remove the remaining hazardous material before any chemical release can occur.”
Rebarchak wrote that during a recent inspection, “we saw damage to exterior doors, a window propped open, trash on the inside of the building, and signs that someone had stripped copper from electrical boxes.”
The cleanup will occur this month and Rebarchak said the agency hopes to hold a public hearing on the cleanup as soon as October or November to explain to the public what was done at the site and “giving area residents an opportunity to comment.”
DEP also wants to give prospective purchasers of the property an opportunity to contribute to the costs of cleaning it up in exchange for being forgiven for any subsequent legal liability.
“The property went up for sheriff sale and when the prospective buyer found out about the environmental issues, he backed out,” she said.
The money for the cleanup comes from the fund created by the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, adopted in 1988.
Although the law allows the DEP to recover cleanup costs from property owners, the fact that the current owner is bankrupt makes that unlikely, Rebarchak conceded.
Instead, the DEP hopes to clean the site up and lure a new owner to contribute to the cost through a program called “protective purchasing” in which “the new owner chips in toward the cleanup costs” and in exchange is absolved of liability for any issues that might arise from the original pollution.
“Ultimately, we want to put these properties back into productive use and back onto the tax rolls,” said Rebarchak.
The property has been on the borough’s radar for some time because before it went bankrupt, it had accumulated water and sewer bills in excess of $55,000.
The figure is now closer to $74,000, borough officials said, and the collection of that bill has been handed over to the third-party collection agent. Once their fees are added on, the property will be on the hook for as much as $93,000, although the difference between the two figures goes to the collection agent, Portnoff Law Associates.