Neighbors urge DEP to deny permits for Bucks County industrial-waste plant

A controversial proposal to build an industrial-wastewater treatment facility in Falls Township is close to regulatory approval after years of contention.

Amanda Vendetti of Tullytown

Amanda Vendetti of Tullytown and other Lower Bucks County residents line up to ask questions of DEP officials about a toxic waste recycling and storage facility proposed for Falls Township, Pa. in 2019. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Vocal opponents of a controversial proposal to build an industrial-wastewater treatment facility in lower Bucks County packed a public hearing in Langhorne hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

A boisterous crowd of about 350 responded with a chorus of boos and cheers Tuesday night as area residents challenged DEP’s experts on the environmental impact of the proposed plant.

Elcon Recycling Services LLC is seeking three permits from the DEP to treat up to 210,000 tons per year of hazardous wastewater generated during the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics, and other industrial products. Elcon’s treatment plant would be situated in an industrial park near the Delaware River in Falls Township, and many nearby residents fear it could contaminate the region’s water supply.

Elcon’s proposed hazardous waste facility would be located on 23 acres off Dean Sievers Place. (Google Maps)

Air pollution released during the treatment of hazardous chemicals also was cited as a concern by those objecting to the Elcon plant.

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“We already have terrible air quality here, it’s horrible,” Morrisville resident Chris Brown told the DEP panel.

“It’s a dumping area,” he said, to applause from the crowd.

Many others shared the view that lower Bucks County already has too much industry actively polluting the local environment.

“There’s tons and tons of heavy industrial facilities,” said Lise Baxter of Protect Our Water and Air, a local group formed to oppose Elcon’s plans. “We feel it’s all too concentrated and too close to people.”

The group is working with a coalition of environmental nonprofits, including the Sierra Club and PennEnvironment, to oppose the plant.

Elcon’s website for the project states that any air emissions would be 99.9 percent free of pollutants, and that it would meet all environmental regulations to prevent contamination of the river or groundwater.

Treated waste from the plant would not be discharged into the river, but opponents are concerned about accidental spills from trucks transporting hazardous waste to the facility and catastrophic floods reaching storage tanks.

Elcon was not part of the official presentation Tuesday night, and supporters of the company, many of them from the construction industry, were in the minority. But they said Elcon had proved its commitment to protecting the environment.

“Everything we’ve seen to this point, there’s nothing dangerous whatsoever, despite what the community may think,” said Bernard Griggs Jr., a representative from the Building Trades Council of Philadelphia.

Griggs said he supported the project for the local jobs it would create. Elcon has said the plant would create up to 200 temporary construction jobs and 55 permanent jobs.

The company has been working on the proposal since 2014, and is nearing the end of the regulatory-approval process. A DEP recommendation is expected in May. A final decision on the permits could come in the summer.

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