Speculation and rumors sprung up last week that Elcon put the brakes on its application process to build a liquid waste treatment plant in Falls Township. However, the company’s community liaison insisted the process is still going according to plan.
It just may take a little longer than expected.
“There’s no time clock on this and we’re making sure that what we submit is as thorough as possible,” said Elcon community liaison Kelly Henry in a phone interview last week.
Specifically, Henry is referring to Part B of the application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, or PADEP. It’s the single largest part of the application process, which altogether spans 12 to 16 months.
Part B is thousands of pages long and encompasses a checklist that alone is more than 200 pages. The application is expected to also reflect input the company has received from the communities that will be affected by the plant.
Elcon originally projected to submit Part B in March, following a public meeting in Langhorne on Feb. 23, where they gathered input via a two-hour public comment session. Now the company will submit within 60 to 70 days of that meeting, which is the end of April.
“We gave our best estimate at our meeting,” said Henry. “As we do our due diligence, we underestimated how much time it would take us to go through this incredibly complex application. And we are just taking our time to make sure we get it as correct as absolutely possible.”
There is no timeline by which the company must submit this part of the application to the PADEP. The projection for March was a forecast by Elcon only, and was subject to change.
Overall, this is Elcon’s second attempt to work through the approval process. Last May, the company resubmitted its Phase One application because, in a statement, the PADEP said it initially “failed to demonstrate conformance with the flood hazard criteria in their initial submission.”
Last Monday, a Bucks County newspaper reported Henry claiming the company put the application on hold, which Henry said isn’t true.
“You’ll notice there are no quote marks around that. That’s not what was said. It’s not on hold,” she said. “We’re pursuing the process exactly as it’s designed.”
But the statement was enough to spark speculation that the project had encountered difficulties. “The reason there is a delay in Elcon’s application is because of public outcry,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, in a press release to news outlets.
In a follow-up phone interview, Tittel said he’d heard from “local officials in the townships that are fighting it” that the company is slowing down its permit applications to the PADEP.
“They’re not going to say that because it’s showing weakness, [but] that’s what we’ve been told,” he said.
Through a spokesperson, Falls Township stated that it has not had any communication with Elcon officials, let alone regarding any delays, because the process is still at the state level.
According to a Feb. 17 press release from the township, Falls is avoiding any involvement with the process because that could provoke legal action.
“Approving a resolution before reviewing plans for the Elcon waste treatment facility could show discriminatory action on the part of local elected officials, leaving the township open to litigation and ultimately putting the decision in the hands of a court instead of the governing body, whose members all live in and raise families in Falls Township,” the release read in part.
Jeff Benedetto, Chairman of the Board of Township Supervisors for Lower Makefield, said officials there haven’t had any communication with Elcon except to set up the hearing the township held with them on March 2.
“The first thing I saw of any kind of delay was in the [newspaper article],” he said last week.
Virginia Cain, Community Relations Coordinator for the PADEP Southern Regional Office, confirmed there is no timeline for the Part B submission and the department will review it whenever it comes in.
“The timeline proposed by Elcon at their public meeting is only an estimate, and was not submitted to the Department as a binding agreement,” she said via email.
Cain also confirmed that no one at the PADEP, including the project manager who would work most closely with the company, heard anything from Elcon regarding delays or holds.