WEST CHESTER (July 6, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman said today that he could not support state funding for the redevelopment of the former Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland until serious questions regarding the site’s contamination are answered.
In a June 25 letter to Dennis Davin, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Dinniman asked the department to suspend his initial support for an application by the Chester County Economic Development Council and Constitution Drive L.P. for funding to redevelop the site under DCED’s Industrial Sites Reuse Program (ISRP).
Initially, the developer planned to remediate the site for industrial and commercial use. However, the developer has publicly changed plans and now aims to build a residential community of 228 townhomes there in phases with a partial remediation of site. In addition, in a June 20 letter to Constitution Drive L.P., the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) indicated that it detected industrial waste, including elevated levels of Total Chromium, Total Nickel, and Total Aluminum, being discharged into the Little Valley Creek at the site as recently as May. Furthermore, it seems that DEP is not even sure of where the underground plume of contaminated groundwater ends. It may, in fact, stretch much farther and DEP now plans to test wells up to a mile from the site.
“Recent community meetings and constituent inquiries regarding the scale and scope of this application have raised my level of concern regarding the community impacts of this project. Specifically, it has come to my attention that the developer has proposed to direct ISRP funding to a partial remediation of this highly contaminated site,” Dinniman wrote in the June 25 letter to DCED. “Further, through numerous conversations with DEP, it is my understanding that responsible state agencies may not fully realize the degree and location of the environmental contaminants at the proposed site . . . I am deeply concerned by this information and must immediately suspend my support for ISRP funding until such time that these questions are resolved.”
The former Bishop Tube Co. site produced stainless steel tubes from the 1950s until 1999. In the past, TCE, or Trichloroethylene, a manmade chemical that is commonly used as an industrial degreasing agent, and other hazardous contaminants have been found in the property’s groundwater, soil and indoor air. TCE is a carcinogen and can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, has worked with and urged department officials to fully and thoroughly remediate the former Bishop Tube property during his time as both a state Senator and previously as a Chester County Commissioner.
He wrote he could only support state funding for the project if remediation plans include “a detailed investigation that ensures a comprehensive awareness of the location and degree of all contaminates” and a “full and complete cleanup of the site.”
“The bottom line is my constituents have real and valid concerns about the Bishop Tube site. Not only has the developer changed plans, but we’re now learning that the level and size of the contamination may be far greater than originally thought,” Dinniman said. “We need to know what is there, exactly how much, and where it is located before any work moves forward. Otherwise, any attempts to remediate the site without comprehensive knowledge could potentially do more harm than good by spreading contaminants in the air, soil, or water and threatening the health, safety, well-being, and property values of nearby residents.”