DEP extends Northface permit for one year
A truck turns off Mauch Chunk Road into the Northface Business Park in Palmerton Borough on Wednesday morning. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS
A controversial reclamation project in Palmerton Borough can forge ahead for at least one more year.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection informed Phase III Environmental on Dec. 17 that it could continue deliveries of regulated fill to the Northface Business Park off Route 248 under the existing residual waste general permit. The permit now expires Dec. 23, 2019.
Phase III applied for a permit renewal in July 2018 as the existing one was set to expire at the end of the year, but DEP spokesperson Colleen Connolly said the state agency is “suspending” its review of the application while it revises its “Management of Fill Policy.”
“This is a statewide process,” Connolly said of the fill policy review. “Because of that revision process, the DEP is “suspending” its review of all WMGR096 applications for renewal until the Management of Fill policy is finalized. DEP will then resume review of all WMGR096 renewal applications, including Phase III’s, considering and applying revisions made to the policy.”
In its December letter to Phase III officials, DEP acknowledged it received extensive and voluminous public comment on the permit renewal application and would provide for another 60-day comment period in the future.
“Please be reminded that regulated fill containing a concentration of total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) greater than two parts per million may be subject to regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which is administered and implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Roger Bellas, DEP environmental program manager, wrote to Phase III officials.
In a related act, DEP rescinded its Nov. 15 letter to Phase III, in which it identified 37 deficient submittals where Phase III “failed to adequately sample regulated fill before placement at the site, receive fill before the 10 working-day DEP review period, and/or received fill without DEP approval.”
DEP said it reserved the right to identify any of those technical deficiencies again when it resumes its review of the permit renewal application.
Palmerton Borough officials have been critical of the project, particularly the damage trucks headed to the site are doing to roads. The matter led to a confrontation at the most recent borough council meeting, when resident Howard Zellner said nobody was doing anything about the traffic.
“When’s the last time you guys actually did something about the trucks, without somebody getting hurt? How many people flipped over? How many trucks flipped over out that way? What did you guys do about that? Nothing. So, I don’t even want to hear your (expletive),” Zellner said.
Councilman Kris Hoffner said the borough has had numerous meetings with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over the years regarding the truck issues, and its police department routinely tickets drivers in overweight trucks.
The borough sent a letter to DEP last year asking the agency not to renew Phase III’s permit until certain issues were addressed.
“That road has been heavily damaged as you head west out of town,” borough Manager Roger Danielson said. “It has probably sunk between 3 and 5 inches at some parts.”
While giving a tour of the property to Realtors in October 2017, Petrole said the plan was to wrap up construction at the 120-acre site by moving west to east within the next three years, bringing the 10-year Northface Business Park project to completion.
The site, he said, could eventually bring in more than 500 jobs via industrial business, warehouses, logistics and manufacturing companies.