“Shoppers” removing scrap metal from Cramp building site

There has been some unauthorized shopping at the Cramp Shipyard building.

Since Monday, crews have been dismantling the building to make way for the new Girard Avenue Interchange. But after the workers leave the former machine and turret shop for the night, persons unknown have been bringing carts from a nearby shopping center to the Richmond Street site and filling them with railing sections, cart-sized pieces of steel and “whatever small pieces of material they can get from the area and out,” said PennDOT spokesman Eugene Blaum.

Neighbors have noticed. So have people who run the shopping center.

Local historian Torben Jenk saw the activity while he was walking his dogs and stopped to photograph the building, long a subject he’s been interested in. “Once Geppert’s union operating engineers leave for the day, the metal-scrappers arrive with their shopping carts,” Jenk noted in an email.

Project Manager Bridget Day, who works for PennDOT management consultant Hill International, found out about the theft Friday morning from project contractor James J. Anderson Construction. “The shopping center complained that cars in the parking lot were getting scratched up by carts with scrap being taken through the rows of cars,” Day said.

In addition to Anderson, PennDOT has contracted with David Geppert Recycling, Inc. to work on the project. PennDOT plans to reuse some of the building materials as art objects and building materials for the Girard Avenue project, and will make some such items available to the city and neighborhood associations, too.  But it is also recycling materials and will use the revenue to offset some of the project costs.

The bulk of the recycling that will offset PennDOT’s cost – that is, taxpayer costs – are the large pieces of steel used for framing the building, and those suckers won’t fit in any shopping cart. The contractor is also taking loads of choice recyclables to the recycling yard ever day, Day said.

Still, for safety reasons, PennDOT doesn’t want people on the site anymore than the shopping center wants carts used or cars scratched.

Since the fencing alone wasn’t working, project workers pushed some rubble around. “They have built a berm – a mini mountain – in the pathway where people were coming from the shopping center with shopping carts, to make it more difficult,” Blaum said. The berm is about five feet high, he said.

Day said that the most certain way to keep people off a site is to hire 24-hour security, but that is a pricey proposition. One that would probably cost more than the revenue the pilfered metal scraps would generate, Blaum said.

Jenk said this is not the first time he’s seen unauthorized recycling in action. “Over the past few years I have seen gangs of metal scrappers all along the Delaware waterfront. Some are mining the Cramp docks with pick axes!” he wrote.

Reach the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com.

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