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Palmerton wants Northface issues resolved before DEP permit is renewed

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    An aerial view of the Northface property shows remediation work. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to follow the progression of the Northface site with our photo gallery. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

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    Trucks coming to Northface are the reasons for complaints.

Published September 06. 2018 12:30PM

Palmerton Borough leaders are turning to the state for help with oversight of an ongoing project at the former New Jersey Zinc west plant.

The borough recently sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, asking the agency not to renew Phase III Environmental LLC’s permit after it expires in December, unless certain issues are 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.

According to Palmerton’s letter, George Petrole, of Northface Development, said damage to Mauch Chunk Road is not the developer’s responsibility.

“Several truck rollovers with damage to personal property have occurred due largely to brake failures and compromised stopping distances,” the letter states. “The owner has appealed his taxes as an unproductive property, yet runs a steady business of landfilling which generates substantial income at the expense of borough taxpayers.”

Northface received approval to install an on/off ramp along Route 248 heading west to alleviate the truck traffic on Mauch Chunk Road, but has yet to install it.

Danielson said the developer has also not submitted an adequate stormwater management plan for the project.

Palmerton Municipal Authority has pending litigation against the developers, seeking around $75,000 for “avoidable damage done to its pump house during a storm.”

The amount of fill being dumped on the site is also concerning to the borough. In some cases, pipes are now buried 20 to 30 feet below the surface.

“If we need to make changes to the water system, those water lines are buried pretty deep in the ground,” Danielson said. “Some of these things could be really expensive and we’re concerned about them, which is why we’ve reached out to DEP.”

Danielson said a break in the borough’s industrial water line could, “cause closure of a business and end jobs for 200 people indefinitely, while a break in the potable line would shut down a well that produces around 20 percent of the borough’s daily use.”

A storm drain traversing the site has also been deeply buried, the borough contends.

“A breach of this deeply buried line would flood several areas of homes and businesses along Mauch Chunk Road and the railroad along the side of the project site,” the letter states.

DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly acknowledged receipt of Palmerton’s letter.

“The department is reviewing the letter and will respond appropriately once all pertinent information is gathered,” she said.

Danielson has asked that the developer, “be required to correct the problems it created, submit a stormwater management plan for review and approval, reimburse the borough for pipe remediation and resurface Mauch Chunk Road.”

Contacted Friday morning, Petrole said he had no comment on the letter.

After purchasing the property in 2009, Northface received a DEP permit in 2010 to use regulated fill to meet site cleanup standards and allow for the redevelopment of the site. The company was to meet all DEP limits for metals and organic chemicals in the fill material.

Also, DEP required the company to develop a sitewide grading plan to delineate the placement of the fill, which the company estimated would require an increase in overall elevation by 10 to 15 feet with the placement of 4 million to 6 million tons of regulated fill material.

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.

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