After months of inactivity, Elcon Recycling has announced its intent to submit Phase II of its plan to build a liquid waste treatment center in Falls Township around Feb. 20.
The current process resumes from early last year, when the Israeli-based company proposed a plant on 22 acres of a 33-acre site in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex.
As part of the approval process, Elcon held what turned into a four-hour public meeting last February attended by around 350 people. Almost all of the 55 or so who commented were against the plans.
Dr. Rengarajan Ramesh, a technical adviser for the company, said the plant’s thermal oxidation process would be an environmentally sound alternative to incineration or deep well injection, where wastewater is diluted and stored deep in the ground.
The process will cleanse the treated water of pollutants, and nothing would be dumped in the Delaware River. The company has not chosen a landfill yet for its waste..
“[The plant] will eliminate long-distance shipping,” said Ramesh last February. “We need to treat it sustainably, not dump it in a hole in the ground.”
However, many residents and environmental advocates opposed the plan. Concerns include the plant’s location about a mile from the Delaware River and even closer to a creek leading into the river, which opponents felt would pose a strong risk of water contamination in the event of an accident.
Others questioned the effect that the extra traffic from tractor trailers would have on Bucks County’s roads and already compromised air quality.
After that, representatives appeared at various township meetings, and the company pushed back its own timeline to submit Phase II to the PADEP.
According to state regulations, there is no timeline for submitting this part of the application, and for months Elcon did not make any statements or moves to push the project forward.
On Monday, however, the company published an advertisement in the Courier Times newspaper. Since the pre-application meeting was held last year, the company needs to advertise the submission in only two publications once a week for two consecutive weeks before submitting.
Once Elcon submits Phase II, the PADEP has 90 to determine if the application is administratively complete. If so, that kicks off a roughly 10-month technical review process during which the department will be scheduling opportunities for the public to weigh in on the matter.
In response to the public notifications, state Rep. Perry Warren, who serves the 31st District in Lower Bucks County, wrote to acting PADEP secretary Patrick McDonnell, asking for all Phase II documents pertaining to be published online as soon as possible.
He also requested public hearings and comment opportunities during three parts of the review process, which is above and beyond regulations.
“The Phase II process is the most detailed and extensive review of all design and operation information,” Warren wrote.
“It is in the best interest of all interested parties that all aspects of this project be available for public review and comment.”
As a member of the Newtown Borough Council, Warren drafted and voted for a proposal last year opposing the plant.
His concerns at the time included the potential effects on the water quality in the Delaware River, as well as the environmental impact from truckloads of waste being transported to Lower Bucks.
With the proposal now back on the table, he recalled company representatives saying they would take public comment into consideration when drafting the next part of their proposal.
“We’ll see what they have to say this time,” Warren said in a phone interview today.
Already, the PADEP has set up a page on its website with information about the proposal, and will publish Phase II documents there.
In an email, a spokesperson also stated the department is open to Warren’s request for extra hearings.
“The Department welcomes Representative Warren’s interest in the Elcon project. Although we have yet to receive an official submission from the applicant, DEP has been and will continue to be committed to transparency, open communication, and enhanced public participation for this project,” the email read in part. ••
Edit: This post has been updated to reflect the full Phase II application process.