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The game called “Pass the Buck”


 By the spring of 2011, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds were discovered in the private well water at a residence on Layfield Road, near the intersection with Hoffmansville Road, in Perkiomenville.  The Penna. DEP and County Health Department were notified and an investigation of the source began.

Since the affected well was located in close proximity to the Good Oil Company, and since that location had been listed several times over many years as a toxic superfund site, the home heating oil property was, again, under scrutiny.  The Penna. DEP installed many test wells on the Good Oil property and surrounding homes and businesses, followed by monthly testing of the wells or tap water.  All property owners received the monthly results by mail, as did the New Hanover Township office.  Did any members of the township Board of Supervisors take a look at the results between 2011 and 2015?  Did the township solicitor advise the Supervisors to take a look at the well sampling results because it’s their job to protect the citizens?

By 2012, approximately seven homes on Layfield Road contained various chemicals, including an apartment building.  On Hoffmansville Road, there were ten homes with the contamination, and two of those homes are owned by Gibraltar Rock, Inc.  Heavy contamination was also detected on the Good Oil property and some on vacant land owned by Gibraltar Rock, Inc. 

Between 2012-2013, a family who lived in the apartment house affected by the contamination and using bottled water provided by the Penna. DEP, appeared at a Board of Supervisors meeting.  The expectant father said, “In about a month, our first child will be born.  Are we supposed to bathe our baby in contaminated water?”  The Board’s response was, “We are not in charge of the situation, you need to contact the DEP about that.”  They passed the buck.

In early 2011, Gibraltar Rock filed a plan with the New Hanover Township Planning Commission, asking for approval to start a hard-rock quarry, ready-mix concrete plant, and hot asphalt plant on the vacant land showing contamination in observation wells.  Gibraltar Rock cancelled their meetings with the Planning Commission in August, 2012.  This year, Gibraltar Rock filed a request with New Hanover Township asking for preliminary and final approval of their plan following a 3-year delay.  During those three years, the plume of contamination had spread.  Were the township Board of Supervisors aware of the level of contamination?  Did they care to read the reports?

On June 8, 2015, the Board of Supervisors was prepared to vote on preliminary plan approval for Gibraltar Rock following “talks with Gibraltar Rock” earlier in the year.  Ban the Quarry’s attorney and several residents implored the Board to slow down but the requests were totally ignored.  Then the attorney and some residents asked if the Board would at least note on the proposed quarry’s plan where the test wells showing contamination are located.  The Board’s response was, “No, the Penna. DEP is handling the contamination issue.”  They passed the buck.

Now, after several unfavorable newspaper articles, the Board of Supervisors has a desire to “learn more about the contamination” that was discovered in 2011.  Better late than never, but can we trust that they believe it is their responsibility to promote, protect, and facilitate the public health and safety . . . as stated in their ordinance on zoning?

Can we believe that the Board is now prepared to impose conditions to insure the protection of adjacent uses, or insure the health, safety, or general welfare . . . as stated in another ordinance?

Is the New Hanover Board of Supervisors aware that the state Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) delegates a broad range of powers to municipalities to effectively regulate land use and development for the purpose of protecting and promoting the health, safety, and welfare of each municipality’s citizens?

Now that New Hanover Township is learning what would happen to the plume of contamination if blasting would occur at this toxic site, will they again “pass the buck”?  

As President Harry Truman said, “the buck stops here”.

Celeste Bish
Paradise Watchdogs/Ban the Quarry

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