A breakdown of ABB property documents recently published by DEP

The ABB property in Muse, PA

The ABB property in Muse, PA

CCJ organizer Heaven Sensky has been working closely with people in Cecil Township around several issues, including the purchase of 87 acres in Muse known by the township as “the ABB Property.” Months ago, many residents of Cecil Township attended a public meeting regarding the ABB property, but few of their many questions were answered. When they questioned the history of the property, the locations of current monitoring wells, and the long term use of the large parcel of industrial land, they were left confused and with even more questions. At one point, residents were asked to file their own Right-To-Know Law Request for information, rather than the local government sharing with them what was known.  

At that point, CCJ filed a Right-To-Know Law Request with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all documents from the last four decades, including correspondence, pertaining to the ABB property. On July 15th, the DEP published 12 extensive reports dating from April of 1990 to December of 2003. They also published the consent order and agreement (summarized in a previous blog), a 2017 groundwater monitoring report, and Cecil Township’s notice of their intent to remediate the property. 

After careful review, we are able to release a summary of those documents below, along with a series of questions still unanswered by the township. 

On June 6, 2019, CCJ filed a Right-to-Know Law Request with the DEP seeking copies of the following environmental investigation reports related to the Muse Property owned by ABB:

    • Site Assessment and Environmental Compliance Audit Report (April 1990) C-E Environmental Inc. 

    • Report of Field Investigations (March 1994) ABB Environmental Services Inc. 

    • Phase III – Site Characterization Report (December 1994) ABB Environmental Services Inc. 

    • Phase IV – Remediation Pilot Test Program Report (September 1995) ABB Environmental Services Inc.

    • Phase IV – Soil Remediation Report (April 1996) ABB Environmental Services Inc. 

    • Environmental Status Report (August 2003) MACTEC

    • Waste Characterization Report (March 2009) EQ- Environmental Quality Company 

    • Final Closure Report – Solid Waste Landfill (August 2009) MACTEC

    • Sampling and Analysis Plan – Southern Landfill Berm (August 2009) Conestoga-Rovers & Associations (CRA) (now GHD)

    • Southern Landfill Berm Characterization Report (January 2010) CRA (now GHD)

    • Groundwater Monitoring Reports (2001 – 2016) MACTEC/CRA

    • “Final Environmental Indicator Inspection Report for Former CE Cast Facility”, Muse-Bishop Road, Muse Pennsylvania 15350 (December 2003) Tetra Tech FW Inc., One Oxford Valley-Suite 200, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, 19047-1829

Copies of those reports can be viewed here.

Cecil Township submitted a Notice of Intent to Remediate the property pursuant to the Consent Order and Agreement with the DEP. According to the Notice of Intent to Remediate, “[a]s a result of historical manufacturing and recovery operations at the site, the soil and groundwater were impacted by volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, and metals. Primary contaminants include trichloroethene and trichloroethate and related daughter products, and 1,4-dioxane.” 

Trichloroethene- aka “Trichloroethylene is a synthetic, light sensitive, volatile, colorless, liquid that is miscible with many non-polar organic solvents. Trichloroethylene is used mainly as a degreaser for metal parts. Upon combustion, it produces irritants and toxic gases. Occupational exposure to trichloroethylene is associated with excess incidences of liver cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. (NCI05)”

1,4-dioxane- “1,4-Dioxane is a clear liquid with a faint pleasant odor. It mixes easily with water. It is used as a solvent in the manufacture of other chemicals and as a laboratory reagent.1,4-Dioxane can be released into the air, water, and soil at places where it is produced or used as a solvent. In soil, 1,4-dioxane does not stick to soil particles, so it can move from soil into groundwater. Studies in animals have shown that breathing vapors of 1,4-dioxane affects mainly the nasal cavity and the liver and kidneys. Swallowing liquid 1,4-dioxane or contaminated drinking water, or having skin contact with liquid 1,4-dioxane also affects the liver and kidneys. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers 1,4-dioxane as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The EPA has established that 1,4-dioxane is likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

According to the 2017 Groundwater Monitoring Report, “the concentrations of daughter compounds such as cis-1,2-DCE, 1,1-DCE and vinyl chloride are generally increasing or stabilizing, while the parent compound concentrations (i.e. trichloroethene and trichloroethate) are generally decreasing.” One semi-volatile organic compound (SVOC), 1,4-dioxane, continues to the present in groundwater underlying the Muse Property. 

cis-1,2-DCE- “...appears as a clear colorless liquid with an ether-like odor. Flash point 36-39°F. Denser than water and insoluble in water. Vapors heavier than air. Used in the making of perfumes. EPA: Inadequate information to assess carcinogenic potential.”

1,1-DCE- “is an industrial chemical that is not found naturally in the environment. It is a colorless liquid with a mild, sweet smell. It is also called vinylidene chloride. 1, 1-Dichloroethene is used to make certain plastics, such as flexible films like food wrap, and in packaging materials. It is also used to make flame retardant coatings for fiber and carpet backings, and in piping, coating for steel pipes, and in adhesive applications.H224: Extremely flammable liquid and vapor [Danger Flammable liquids] H332: Harmful if inhaled [Warning Acute toxicity, inhalation] H351: Suspected of causing cancer [Warning Carcinogenicity]”

vinyl chloride- see 1.1-DCE

In addition to a brief description of the site contamination, the Notice of Intent to Remediate requires a general description of proposed remediation measures. In response, Cecil Township stated: “Remediation options will be evaluated in a Remedial Investigation Report. However, at this time it is envisioned that engineering and institutional controls will be utilized to eliminate potential exposure pathways to identified contamination.” 

Going forward, residents should feel empowered to ask the Board of Supervisors the following questions, which continue to remain unanswered despite the plethora of documents released by the DEP. 

Importantly, according to the Consent Order and Agreement with the DEP, the Remedial Investigation Report is not due until January 3, 2021. It is CCJ’s understanding that Cecil Township has not completed its remedial investigation. 

  • Question: What kind of engineering and institutional controls will be used? 

  • Question: When will that remedial investigation be completed? 

According to the Notice of Intent to Remediate, the intended future use of the property may include development of a public works building and related structures and roads.

  • Question: Are there other intended future uses? 

The ABB property consists of a whopping 87 acres. The township mentions use for a public works building, but hasn’t answered questions around the use of the rest of the property. Because of ABB’s industrial categorization, and its inability to ever be used for residential development, a question of what residents can expect the township to do with it going forward is pertinent. A remediated ABB could be a beacon for further oil and gas development including well pads, compressor stations and processing stations. Residents need to be able to trust their township in protecting the health and safety of their children not only now, but in the future. 

Residents should also continue to encourage a public meeting with DEP officials. Though many open-ended questions are complex, they still must be answered by the DEP. In the event that the DEP does agree to a public meeting, people should feel free to reach out to CCJ to break down questions and prepare for the meeting. In addition, historical and intergenerational knowledge of what is buried at ABB and where continues to be valuable, and folks with information should continue to share. 

As always, special thanks go out to the community members in Cecil that continue to work tirelessly around these issues to demand answers for themselves and their neighbors. The next Supervisors meeting is this Monday, August 5th at 7:00 PM. 

For more information on the ABB Property and Muse Slate Dumps, Oil and Gas Development, or to get connected with CCJ, feel free to contact Heaven Sensky at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 ext. 103.