Citizens group plans door-to-door campaign to protest proposed waste treatment plant

The possibility of a liquid hazardous waste treatment plant coming to Falls Township hasn’t been in the public eye nearly as much now as it was earlier this year. But at least one group has remained vigilant, and is planning on a door-to-door campaign to reach virtually all of the 34,000 residents in Falls to raise awareness of an issue it believes will soon be in the spotlight again.

“We want to inform residents. We’ve distributed fliers, but that’s not the same as talking to people face-to-face,” said Lise Baxter, a founding member of Protect Our Water and Air, or POWA.

A citizens’ advocacy group founded in Upper Makefield, POWA is dedicated to preventing the Israeli-based Elcon Recycling from building a plant on 22 acres of a 33-acre site in Keystone Industrial Port Complex, which is less than a mile from the Delaware River.

The company plans to transport tons of liquid waste daily via trucks to the plant and cleanse the water of pollutants using a chemical process. POWA, along with other environmental groups, maintain that the plant poses a risk to the air and drinking water in the area, despite the company’s claims otherwise.

In February, Elcon held a meeting to gather public input as it prepared to submit the second phase of its application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP. The company proposed to send the more than 200-page document by April, but still has not done so.

Since then, POWA has been distributing lawn and boat signs to raise awareness and holds monthly meetings on both sides of the Delaware. It also worked with an environmental lawyer to draft a resolution that municipalities near Falls could adopt to signal their opposition to the plan.

So far, around a dozen municipalities in Bucks and New Jersey have approved versions of the resolution. The ones in Bucks are Tullytown, Bristol Borough, Upper Makefield, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Yardley Borough and, most recently, Morrisville and Middletown.

The resolution is non-binding, Baxter noted, but serves to influence Falls Township, which is considering hosting the plant.

“It’s showing the DEP and Falls that no one around wants this,” said Baxter. “It affects other people around it.”

In February, the Falls Township Board of Supervisors released a statement advising they would not address the plant in an ordinance because it had not been formally brought to them for proposal. The Board has since reiterated and maintained its stance.

“If they do come before us … and they are voted down by this board, they could sue and claim that they have been discriminated against. Whatever local control the people have asked us to exercise is gone,” the statement read in part.

Baxter, however, believes the township could have passed a generalized ordinance to block any sort of related plant coming to the town. However, she suggested, due to a dwindling tax base, Falls officials could be waiting to see what sort of financial benefit Elcon could bring before making a decision.

She also believes, based on admittedly unconfirmed reports, that the company is planning to submit Part B of its proposal within a few weeks.

Elcon’s community liaison, Kelly Henry, responded to a query by the Midweek Wire regarding its timeline for the submission saying only, “Elcon continues to prepare its Part B application. We will notify you and all those on our notification list when the application is submitted to the PA Department of Environmental Protection.”

If Baxter is correct, that would time the submission with POWA’s door-to-door campaign, for which around 20 people are already being trained. If Elcon’s plan does not come to fruition, she added, POWA still has work to do.

“Our goal beyond Elcon is to make something more beneficial take that spot,” said Baxter. “We want to provide jobs, but those jobs shouldn’t be harmful to people’s health.”

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