A Philly concrete plant polluted without a permit. Now it’s paying to help stop dumping

A facility just feet from Frankford Creek lacked the proper stormwater permit. It agreed to pay for an anti-dumping project in a nearby park.

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a look at a cliff on the edge of a cement company

Metro Ready Mix & Supply, a concrete company, near the Frankford Creek in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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A concrete plant in Philadelphia’s Crescentville neighborhood was caught operating without an environmental permit.

Now, the facility will pay to help fund a litter and dumping prevention project nearby.

“This facility was not a great neighbor,” said Jessica O’Neill, an attorney at the environmental nonprofit PennFuture, which was involved in the case. “We all thought it was best to reach an agreement and to do something positive for the community.”

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The agreement stems from a lawsuit against the facility — known as Cosan LLC, Bella Trucking Corporation, Mossi Construction Inc. and formerly Metro Ready Mix & Supply — filed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and PennFuture, representing the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership. The Commonwealth Court approved a settlement between the parties last week.

entrance to a cement company
Metro Ready Mix & Supply, a concrete company, near the Frankford Creek in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The ready-mix concrete plant is located just yards away from Frankford Creek. In a complaint filed in March, state environmental regulators alleged the owners of the site allowed water used to clean truck barrels, raw materials and industrial stormwater to enter Frankford Creek without a permit, in violation of the state’s Clean Streams Law.

the cement company on the edge of Frankford Creek
Metro Ready Mix & Supply, a concrete company, near the Frankford Creek in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In 2016, the owner of the facility agreed to shut it down and remove all ready-mix concrete equipment and residual waste from the site, under a consent order in which DEP claimed the facility was already operating without the required stormwater permit.

But the property owners have continued to allow a ready-mix concrete plant to operate on the property under different names since then, this year’s lawsuit alleges.

The most recent violations came to DEP’s attention after PennFuture and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership decided to file a citizen enforcement suit, said PennFuture’s O’Neill.

“We want to be champions for the creek. That’s our job,” said Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership Executive Director Julie Slavet. “This was pretty clear that this was something that was pretty egregious.”

Under the settlement, the plant agreed to contribute $165,000 to a community environmental project led by the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership. The Partnership plans to use the money to build fencing along portions of Tacony Creek Park upstream from the concrete plant, where tires, household items, construction materials and other debris are frequently dumped.

“We’re certainly happy to be partnering with DEP and PennFuture to help clean up and maintain the Tacony Creek,” said Sean Gresh, an attorney with Begley, Carlin & Mandio representing the concrete plant owners.

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The fencing should help prevent trash from blowing into the park and make it harder for people to toss waste off bridges or drive into the park to dump, Slavet said. She said this will benefit both park users and the ecosystem.

“Every bottle that somebody drops, all that stuff will eventually end up in the creek, and then in the river, and then in the ocean,” Slavet said. “And people feel much better about a clean park, and they feel like it’s safer as well. So walking by a big pile of tires is just a symbol of neglect and that nobody cares.”

The settlement also requires the concrete plant to perform stormwater sampling on its property, install measures to prevent erosion and stop silt from flowing into the waterway, and contain any runoff impacted by the business’s industrial processes. The company also agreed to pay a $85,000 penalty to the state.

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