Ac­tiv­ity at Bast site stirs con­cern

Keep­ing as­bestos out of air and wa­ter ques­tioned

Springfield Sun - - NEWS - By Linda Finarelli lfinarelli@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @lk­finarelli on Twit­ter

AM­BLER » Re­cent ac­tiv­ity at the Bast tract, where Am­bler Cross­ings De­vel­op­ment Part­ners LP plans to re­me­di­ate the contaminated 4.6acre par­cel and build a 115unit apart­ment com­plex, has stirred fears that the as­bestos is be­ing dis­turbed with­out due cau­tion.

Diane Mor­gan, a mem­ber of the Borit CAG, es­tab­lished to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of com­mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing the 32-acre Borit as­bestos area near the in­ter­sec­tion of Am­bler and Whit­pain and Up­per Dublin town­ships, said May 25 she feared the work would cause as­bestos fibers to go air­borne or be washed into the Wis­sahickon Creek.

A long­time op­po­nent of con­struc­tion on the as­bestos-contaminated sites as­so­ci­ated with the for­mer Keas­bey & Mat­ti­son as­bestos plant, Mor­gan said, “Once bor­ough coun­cil voted on it, there was no re­course. It shouldn’t be built on; that’s the bot­tom line.”

In 2013, Am­bler Bor­ough Coun­cil ap­proved plans for the three-build­ing apart­ment com­plex on the Bast site on Maple Av­enue near Ch­est­nut Street. A cleanup plan was ap­proved by the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, which is to over­see the re­me­di­a­tion ef­fort.

The DEP, how­ever, has no en­force­ment ca­pa­bil­ity, it can only is­sue fines, said Bor­ough Coun­cil mem­ber Sharon Mccormick, the only coun­cil mem­ber to vote against the plan.

There was a “vis­i­ble emis­sion” of as­bestos in 2010 when build­ings on the site were taken down, “but DEP didn’t do any­thing,” she said. “Some build­ing debris sat in the street for four years; there was 50 per­cent as­bestos in the rub­ble.”

Mor­gan ques­tioned the abil­ity of a green sock around the perime­ter of the site to keep any as­bestos-con­tain­ing dirt from go­ing over to the side­walk or fil­ter out mi­cro­scopic fibers trav­el­ing through the wa­ter.

A wa­ter sup­pres­sion sys­tem will be used to con­tain air­borne par­ti­cles on the site, but Mor­gan said she did not see a de­con­tam­i­na­tion unit to fil­ter and de­con­tam­i­nate the wa­ter from the site, which is go­ing into an on-site de­ten­tion basin and slowly mi­grat­ing into the Wis­sahickon Creek.

“At the end of the day the soil should be cov­ered and it’s not,” she said. “I’m wor­ried about the evap­o­ra­tion of as­bestos-laden dirt.”

She also said she feared the ad­ja­cent SEPTA trains would blow as­bestos-laden dirt off the site.

The de­vel­op­ment rep­re­sents the first res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion project on an as­bestos waste dis­posal site in the United States, Mor­gan said, “and it should have ex­tra­or­di­nary su­per­vi­sion.”

“The cen­tral ques­tion is how is it pos­si­ble that a par­cel 10 feet away from a Su­per­fund site is go­ing to have an apart­ment com­plex with a pool and green space for chil­dren to play on,” she said. The Am­bler Piles “are fail­ing and re­quired more than $1 mil­lion to re­pair again.”

“The EPA told Am­bler over and over again as­bestos waste can’t be dug into,” Mccormick said. “Why the same con­cern is not on the same waste a few feet away [from the Su­per­fund site] makes no sense to me.”

“I un­der­stand these are real con­cerns,” Bor­ough Man­ager Mary Aversa said May 25, but “just be­cause they see some­one out there, they’re not do­ing any re­me­di­a­tion work right now.”

If re­me­di­a­tion was be­ing done, per­mits would have been is­sued, she said, and “no per­mits have been is­sued for re­me­dial work.

“We’re look­ing into this and are not aware of any con­struc­tion. Noth­ing has been sub­mit­ted for per­mits.

“There are four wa­ter­ing de­vices on site, and air sam­pling is be­ing con­ducted ev­ery day,” Aversa said. “There are mech­a­nisms in place to pre­vent dis­charge into the Wis­sahickon Creek, claim­ing that they are not is in­cor­rect.

“If there was any po­ten­tial for a dis­charge into the Wis­sahickon Creek, I would be down there and call­ing ev­ery­one my­self,” she said.

The sock is “an ap­proved de­vice by the DEP,” Aversa said.

“The EPA and DEP are the agen­cies that ap­prove de­vel­op­ment on any contaminated site,” she said. It’s not in the bor­ough’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

“The DEP will go door-todoor to let res­i­dents know” when con­struc­tion is about to be­gin, she said. Once con­struc­tion does start, “we will keep an eye on it.”

“It’s up­set­ting to peo­ple, I get that,” said Aversa, not­ing she, too lives in the bor­ough. “Once a plan is in place, we will see that it’s fol­lowed. Safety is our No. 1 pri­or­ity.”

DEP spokes­woman Vir­ginia Cain said in a June 2 email that the cur­rent work at Bast in­volves au­tho­rized site clear­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, and that sev­eral DEP pro­grams are over­see­ing the work.

“To date, DEP has not found any non-com­pli­ance with the cur­rent ac­tiv­i­ties,” she said. “The de­vel­oper sends weekly air mon­i­tor­ing re­sults to DEP, as well as doc­u­men­ta­tion of dust sup­pres­sion ef­forts. The ac­tiv­i­ties also com­ply with the Act 2 (Land Re­cy­cling) process and the is­sued Na­tional Pol­lu­tant Dis­charge Elim­i­na­tion Sys­tem.

“In­spec­tors from the DEP Air Qual­ity pro­gram con­duct rou­tine in­spec­tions to en­sure wet sup­pres­sion tech­niques are be­ing used and that no fugi­tive dust emis­sions are cre­ated,” she said.

The area is cur­rently be­ing re­graded in prepa­ra­tion for the con­struc­tion of foun­da­tions, ac­cord­ing to a no­tice to the DEP from RT En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Inc. lay­ing out the steps for re­de­vel­op­ment of the site — grad­ing, util­ity in­stal­la­tion, fill­ing low-ly­ing area to sub­grade, con­struc­tion of foun­da­tions and in­stal­la­tion of the fi­nal cap, a com­bi­na­tion of as­phalt, con­crete and soil.

Ac­cord­ing to the no­tice, pre­con­struc­tion work be­gan with in­stal­la­tion of silt socks to con­trol ero­sion and three dust sup­pres­sion mist­ing sys­tems. Veg­e­ta­tion not im­pacted by as­bestos con­tain­ing soil was to be mulched and shipped off­site for re­use.

Debris and mu­nic­i­pal waste on the site was to be re­moved and prop­erly dis­posed of and re­main­ing con­crete crushed and stock­piled for re­use as fill. All crush­ing ac­tiv­i­ties were to be done un­der wet con­di­tions to min­i­mize po­ten­tial gen­er­a­tion of dust, and all as­bestos con­tain­ing soil was to be “stock­piled and cov­ered at the end of each day,” the no­tice says. “The soil will be placed be­neath the build­ing foun­da­tions and/or used as struc­tural fill.”

Ac­cord­ing to the no­tice, the pool “will be elim­i­nated from fi­nal de­sign plans.”

Both Mor­gan and Mccormick main­tain the site should not be built on.

“They feel they can meet re­quire­ments by cap­ping it and build­ing on it,” Mor­gan said. “Tox­ins go with the wa­ter and un­der­ground an­i­mals bur­row up and dis­turb the area. It’s a po­ten­tial for dis­as­ter — not to­mor­row, but 30 years from now.”

Not­ing there is no way to stop the project, since it’s been ap­proved, Mccormick said, “If you’re go­ing to do it, you have to do it safely.” Sev­eral res­i­dents have called her with com­plaints, she said. “Safety pro­to­col mea­sures should be vis­i­bly made bet­ter.

“DEP should be mak­ing sure safety equip­ment is there to make sure cit­i­zens are not ex­posed.”

“If there was any po­ten­tial for a dis­charge into the Wis­sahickon Creek, I would be down there and call­ing ev­ery­one my­self.” — Am­bler Bor­ough Man­ager Mary Aversa

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