DEP lists 37 Northface deficiencies
This aerial view shows the Northface site. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see an interactive map of where the fill cited in the Department of Environmental protection report originated. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
The company behind the Northface Business Park in Palmerton borough may have violated a state statute during its reclamation project, according to a state regulatory agency.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection officials said Thursday that Phase III Environmental accepted fill without proper authorization and lacked proper sampling of the material it is bringing to the site along Route 248.
According to DEP, 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.
“Seventy-six sources of the fill, including the 37 described in the notice of violations, are in question by DEP,” DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said. “Some of them may be cleared up when DEP gets the requested response from Northface. The remaining 36 violations we need more information on before we can determine if an actual violation occurred.”
Phase III has submitted a permit renewal application to continue using regulated fill as a construction material at the former New Jersey Zinc Company West Plant.
A Dec. 3 letter from Rachel Miller, DEP environmental protection compliance specialist, to Bruce Lack, Phase III president and general manager, states Phase III is “in violation of the Solid Waste Management Act.”
Per the violation notice, on 17 instances Northface failed to perform chemical analysis on representative samples of regulated fill before acceptance at the site. On eight instances, Phase III received fill before DEP’s review period was over. On 15 instances, Phase III received fill material without DEP approval.
“You are hereby notified of both the existence of violations and the need to provide prompt correction,” Miller wrote to Lack. “The violations noted within may result in enforcement action under the Solid Waste Management Act.”
The state required Phase III to submit a response within 30 days, identifying how it will prevent the violations from happening in the future.
“If (DEP) determines an enforcement action is appropriate, you will be notified of the action,” Miller wrote in her letter.
Officials reviewed records from Jan. 1-June 30, 2017; Jan. 1-June 30, 2018; and July 1-Sept. 30, 2018.
During that time, Phase III received 654,824.3 tons of material from 208 sources. The sites are mostly located in New York City or New Jersey, but also extend to properties in Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
One of the largest amounts of fill, 40,559 tons, came from the Avalon Bay Development in Boonton, New Jersey.
According to DEP, seven samples, which were required for that amount of material, from the proposed area were not included with the submittal and Phase III did not respond to comments asking for the samples.
Phase III received between 2,000 and 5,500 tons from the majority of the 76 sites listed in the technical review.
DEP also sent a Nov. 15 letter regarding technical deficiencies in Phase III’s permit renewal application for the Northface project. The initial application was approved by the state on Aug. 30, 2010, and renewed on Dec. 23, 2013.
The renewal application was for 3 million cubic yards of regulated fill to cap the 120-acre parcel as part of the construction of a business park, but the latest renewal application includes additional acreage and 7.3 million cubic yards of material.
The state outlined a number of areas that must be updated in the permit application before an approval could be considered. DEP requested an update of the sampling and analysis plan, the amounts of regulated fill from several proposed areas and more.
DEP gave Phase III 60 business days to submit a response fully addressing each deficiency or the permit, set to expire at the end of the year, may be denied.
Attempts to reach Phase III officials for comment on Friday were unsuccessful.
Palmerton Borough has additional concerns, and sent a letter to DEP earlier this year asking the agency not to renew Phase III’s permit until certain issues were addressed.
“We basically outlined what we’ve been seeing through the initial permit period,” borough Manager Rodger Danielson said of the letter.
“It’s nice to have the site cleaned up. There’s no doubt about that. But it can’t come at the expense of taxpayers if the roads are all beat up and there are other costs on the part of the borough because of things that are happening.”
The borough cited several concerns including damage to roads from trucks that are often overweight, and buried water pipes with difficult accessibility.
Trucks hauling in fill, mostly from New York and New Jersey, access the site from Mauch Chunk Road.
“That road has been heavily damaged as you head west out of town,” Danielson said. “It has probably sunk between 3 and 5 inches at some parts.”
An original agreement from the developer, Danielson said, noted that drivers wouldn’t be allowed on the site after three citations for an overweight vehicle.
Palmerton police, however, have stopped the same drivers multiple times for weight infractions.