I am 19-years-old and I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont. Yardley is the only place I’ve known for the past 19 years. I drive along River Road admiring the vibrant greens of the tree canopy above. I walk my dog, Rudy, on the canal towpath trying my best to keep him calm and collected when he sees the ducks or geese gliding along the water. I sit on the benches along the river’s edge observing the calm, passing current.
This minimal, yet crucial exposure to the natural world as a young girl has led me to where I am today. My parents and younger sister still reside in Yardley and my two older siblings and grandparents live in Philadelphia. What do we all have in common? The Delaware River. This river is our source of drinking water, and this precious resource is threatened by Elcon Recycling.
Elcon Recycling Services has proposed to build a facility to be placed in Falls Township less than half a mile away from the Delaware River. The Southeast Pennsylvania Sierra Club reports that it would annually process around 210,000 tons of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and 596 of 600 nationally listed toxic chemicals.
The Delaware River is the drinking water source for our community as well as six million people on the river banks of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Philadelphia Water Department reported that if there was even the smallest accident the effects would be “catastrophic” even though the city is 15 miles away from the site.
While the proposed facility is outside the 100-year floodplain, it is well within the 500-year floodplain. However, The Delaware River Basin Commission, the city of Philadelphia, and other entities are recommending that infrastructure like Elcon should not be built within the 500-year floodplain to prepare for climate change and the threats it poses.
If the facility were to be built, it would adhere to one of the most serious public health crises in Bucks County’s history. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network writes that the site is within a 4-mile radius of several schools where more than 10,000 children are enrolled, including Pennsbury High School, the place I called home for four years.
Our flood victims who live along the Delaware will be at risk of not only flooding itself, but flood water contaminated with hazardous materials. Our county’s air, which the American Lung Association has already ranked as the second worst air quality in Pennsylvania, will be polluted by 25 new emissions. This is not only detrimental to those who are suffering from asthma, heart and lung conditions, and immune deficiencies, but it also poses risks to healthy, able-bodied people.
On April 30, 2019, spectators of a hearing were overcome with joy after the Falls Township Board of Supervisors made the right decision in voting against Elcon’s intrusion. However, Protect Our Air and Water (POWA), local clean air and water advocates claim that the threat of Elcon is not quite gone.
Falls Township is already facing potential lawsuits from Elcon, and its residents are eagerly waiting for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) decision to approve or deny their permits at the end of the month. Frankly, this project completely violates the meaning of environmental protection, and I am shocked if the DEP cannot recognize that.
The severity of health impacts that our friends and family will be battling if the project is approved will be disastrous. Our neighborhoods already suffering from flooding will face even more severe disasters now contaminated with pernicious, perilous chemicals. The natural order of our ecosystems will be disrupted and ravaged by toxicity levels too damaging for further species succession.
Bucks County has always been the place I call home, and I know I am not alone. I am prideful in my township’s advocacy for their people, but this fight is not over. In the future, I hope to return to Yardley knowing that our land and communities weren’t overlooked and instead treated with the respect that they are worthy of after this five-year battle.
Molly Meehan, Yardley