HAMILTON, NJ » Not in my backyard.
A private company’s controversial application to construct a hazardous waste incinerator in Falls Township has generated outrage on both sides of the Delaware.
After the Falls Township Board of Supervisors rejected the Elcon Recycling Services land development plan, Hamilton Council across the river in New Jersey unanimously passed its own resolution voicing firm opposition to the proposed wastewater treatment facility for hazardous liquids.
The governing body last week endorsed New Jersey Assembly Resolution No. 198, which cites Elcon’s history of troubles and alleges the proposed Pennsylvania facility would put the region at high risk of pollution affecting air quality and water quality.
Elcon Recycling Services is an industrial waste treatment firm based in Israel. Hamilton Council’s resolution, similar to the resolution introduced in the General Assembly, details how Elcon’s Haifa Bay facility in Israel has recently been ordered to shut down and relocate due to its history of air and groundwater emissions standard violations and its “negative impact and pollution to the surrounding environment” of Haifa Bay and the Mediterranean coast. Hamilton Council also mentioned the fact that “Elcon Recycling Services has been denied authorization to build facilities in Italy due to environmental issues.”
Notwithstanding its problems overseas, Elcon for years has wanted to purchase land in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex in Falls Township seeing it as the ideal location to build a hazardous waste incinerator.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is currently reviewing Elcon’s plan to build and operate a hazardous waste treatment facility that would treat and store liquid waste on site. The company is seeking several state permits needed for operational approval.
With state DEP approvals hanging in the balance, the Falls Township Board of Supervisors weighed in on April 30 by rejecting Elcon’s land development plan at a rowdy April 30 meeting.
Pennsbury High School student Shivani Patel did not hold back in her public comments.
“So instead of spending my time planning out a graduation party or searching for prom dresses,” the senior said. “I have been spending countless hours canvassing in order to stand up for the safety of my community’s clean air, health and environment.”
After Patel described the proposed incinerator as “bulls—-,” she was ordered to sit down by Supervisors Chairman Robert Harvie for using an obscenity.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I know what kind of language our political discourse has become thanks to certain individuals in office,” Harvie said. “I will not tolerate it here.”
Environmental activist Erica Bradeis voiced opposition to the proposed project in public comments, saying, “I worry that a spill, fire or explosion could directly affect us, and I feel that the plan does not outline how they would prevent spills and leaks and containment and necessary measures to prevent such a disaster from happening.”
Kathleen Bird had approximately 4,000 petitions from Falls residents and 1,400 petitions from residents of neighboring communities opposing the proposed incinerator.
Brandon Roberts of Falls Township said he has lived in the township all of his life and “would hate to see it be destroyed by a hazardous waste plant.”
Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club also spoke, saying, “This is ground zero in the battle against toxic waste and hazardous facilities.”
“We are here today,” Tittel said, “because even the state of Israel says this plant is not kosher. That’s why they fined it.”
The supervisors unanimously rejected Elcon’s application and called upon Pennsylvania’s DEP to take note.
Hamilton, NJ opposition
Hamilton Council passed its resolution 5-0 earlier this month voicing its opposition to Elcon’s controversial land development plan.
Former councilman Vinnie Capodanno applauded Hamilton Council for taking up the cause.
“This type of incinerator is very toxic,” he said at the May 7 Hamilton Council meeting. “It can pollute the air with toxins and it can pollute the water, especially the Delaware River, so this resolution is very important.”
Two Democratic lawmakers in the New Jersey General Assembly have introduced a resolution opposing the construction of a hazardous waste incinerator in Falls Township.
Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. and Assemblywoman Carol A. Murphy introduced Resolution No. 198 last October, but the measure remains in limbo before the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.
Conaway and Murphy represent parts of Burlington County, N.J., including the Delaware River communities of Bordentown, Fieldsboro and Florence. Their stalled resolution, which has several sponsors, cites Elcon’s history of violations in Israel.
If the full Assembly passes the measure, it would officially designate the chamber’s opposition to Elcon’s proposed Falls Township facility. Democratic State Sen. Troy Singleton has introduced a companion resolution in the upper chamber known as Senate Resolution No. 110.
The Assembly and Senate versions of the resolution both state: “This House opposes the construction of a toxic waste incinerator in Falls Township, Pennsylvania, due to the high probability of pollution from both permitted and accidental discharges that would affect air quality in the region and the water quality of the Delaware River, the Delaware Bay, the Chesapeake Bay, and other bodies of water.”
Hamilton Council supports the adoption of Assembly Resolution No. 198, saying the measure “will help protect the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of Hamilton Township and other neighboring communities in the state of New Jersey, Mercer and Burlington counties.”
Kimberly A. Freimuth, an attorney for the applicant, defended the proposal before the Falls Township Board of Supervisors last month.
“Elcon has voluntarily agreed that certain wastes will not be accepted at the facility,” she said, noting the proposed incinerator would not accept radioactive waste, medical waste, solid waste, reactive waste or oil and gas fracking waste. “Elcon has also committed voluntarily to perform various enhancements at the site that go well beyond state and federal regulations.”