Whitehall-Coplay Press

Monday, March 25, 2019

Contaminated fill removed from quarry

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

Noncompliance notice brought on by state, federal guideline discrepancy

Coplay Aggregates has removed more than 200 tons of contaminated fill containing high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from the quarry, it was reported at the Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners meeting Feb. 11.

The company had received a letter warning of noncompliance by the Environmental Protection Agency in March 2018 after samples taken from the quarry, 5101 Beekmantown Road, contained high levels of PCBs. According to the notice, samples from Coplay Aggregates had PCB levels that measured 6.75 parts per million. Federal limits say levels should not exceed 2 parts per million.

However, Commissioner Joseph Marx Jr. said the township received a letter from Coplay Aggregates in January stating the EPA had made a final determination that the company’s fill was in compliance with the EPA guidelines.

Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. said the discrepancy came about because there are differences between Pennsylvania’s regulations and federal regulations for PCBs.

“We can all be happy we weren’t subjected to any real threat,” Harakal said.

The company’s director of compliance, Brian Hilliard, said although the EPA had determined no further action was necessary, Coplay Aggregates had decided to voluntarily remove the material in question.

He reported a total of 202.18 tons was disposed of at the Gloucester County Authority solid waste landfill in Clarksboro, N.J.

Marx mentioned the company said it would not be accepting any material like that in the future.

“I think they know we are watching them,” Marx said. “PCBs are something we don’t want here. We are grateful they cooperated with us on this notice.”

According to the EPA, PCBs belong to a family of man-made organic chemicals that were manufactured and used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications from 1929 until being banned in 1979. PCBs do not readily break down once in the environment and have been found in water in areas far from where they were released. PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of adverse health effects and are potentially carcinogenic.

In other business, the board unanimously approved an ordinance to borrow $9.93 million in a bond issue to fund the first part of a $17 million emergency services complex on the current township municipal site on MacArthur Road.

Christopher Gibbons, a financial adviser and municipal manager from Concord Public Finance, of Lancaster, said the interest rate for the bond issue is fixed at 3.34 percent, with a 25-year repayment plan.

He said the rate was very favorable and was a reflection of the credit worthiness of the township, which received a bond rating of AA.

“It speaks volumes about how the credit market sees the township being run,” he said.

The township will borrow the remainder of the project cost in 2020. The project’s total estimated cost is $17,735,000.

Construction on the new 29,000-square-foot police station and renovation of the township building is anticipated to start by spring 2020.

The board also conditionally approved two development plans along MacArthur Road — Riverside Associates at 1936 MacArthur Road and Lehigh Valley Mall padsites at 1457 MacArthur Road.

“You got to witness two properties going into redevelopment,” said Philip Ginder, board vice president. “These are major properties on a major artery. It says a lot for Whitehall Township. When you see a community stay healthy, it’s as good as an AA bond rating.”