The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection came out against an application for proposed toxic waste treatment facility in Bucks County May 15, saying it had “a number of outstanding deficiencies.”

PADEP’s Notice of Intent to Deny comes after completing a 10-month technical review of materials submitted by the applicant, Israel-based Elcon Recycling Services. Elcon wants to build a facility in Falls Township that would store and treat nearly 200,000 tons per year of hazardous and residual waste. This includes mercury, lead, cadmium, benzine, vinyl chloride and 260 other chemicals.

Tracking air pollution is extremely complex, but the general rule is pollution affects a 30-mile radius from the source. With the prevailing wind going west to east, New Jersey could suffer the bulk of the effects from the proposed Elcon toxic waste facility. (Graphic by Stacey Micallef.)

“After a rigorous review of the application, supplemental materials submitted by the company,

and input from the public, DEP will not approve this application in its current form,” PADEP

Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. “Unless the company can address these outstanding deficiencies, DEP will have no choice but to move forward with a full application denial.”

PADEP, in its statement, was careful to point out that a Notice of Intent to Deny is not a final action by PADEP. It is a draft decision. Elcon may comment on the notice and submit materials to address the deficiencies cited by PADEP.

But members of the public now also have an opportunity to go on the record. With its decision now public, PADEP will open the Elcon application to public comment. The public comment period begins June 1 and runs until July 15. PADEP must acknowledge all comments received during the 45-day comment period, with the agency reviewing and addressing each comment in a public document. All comments should be emailed to RA-EPHWELCON@pa.gov.

The PADEP decision only applies to Elcon’s hazardous waste application. Elcon also has two additional applications for air quality and stormwater, which PADEP continues to review.

In a document dated May 7, PADEP detailed 18 reasons why it could not accept Elcon’s hazardous waste application. Elcon’s miscues ranged from overstating the facility’s economic benefits to, in its plans, including buildings and infrastructure outside the site boundary. Of particular importance was PADEP’s discovery of an equivocation by Elcon regarding groundwater monitoring—company representatives had said Elcon would install a system to watch for accidental releases, but PADEP said the application stated Elcon would install groundwater monitoring only after a spill had already occurred. PADEP also dinged Elcon for being unclear in its application as to whether Elcon would accept certain types of waste, such as PCBs, at the Falls Township facility.

PADEP’s announcement is the latest in a line of recent blows to the Elcon proposal. The Falls Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to reject the proposal during a special meeting April 30, prompting a standing ovation from the residents who packed the meeting at Pennsbury High School West’s Keller Hall.

That vote came on the heels of a March 26 unanimous decision from the Falls Township planning commission to not recommend plans for the Elcon facility. The planning commission does not have legal authority, but the Falls supervisor board does factor its recommendations into decisions.

Stacks from the Keystone Industrial Port Complex are visible from Bordentown Beach April 15, 2019. A toxic waste treatment facility proposed for the complex would be built directly across the Delaware River from Hamilton, and could have effects on air quality in the township. (Staff photo by Samantha Sciarrotta.)

Public opinion has long been against the Elcon proposal, but the opposition became louder and larger after communitynews.org and its sister newspapers published an investigation into Elcon, its history and its Falls Township proposal last month.

The Falls Township and PADEP decisions came after the article’s release, as did a Hamilton Township council resolution opposing the facility. Before the May 7 vote, Hamilton was one of just two neighboring municipalities to not have passed a resolution against Elcon. Trenton is now the lone holdout.

The Elcon proposal isn’t dead, though. The company’s Falls Township proposal has been denied by PADEP three times already, once in 2015 and twice in 2017. Like those times, Elcon once again will have a chance to revise and resubmit its applications.

If Elcon receives the approvals it seeks, it would build a 70,000-square-foot storage and treatment facility on a 33-acre plot of land on Dean Sievers Place. The plant would accept toxic waste from approximately 20 tanker trucks daily, carrying aqueous material from automotive shops, mining operations, pharmaceutical and industrial manufacturing plants. Elcon has said waste would come via truck only to Falls Township from 10 East Coast states.