Backyard Talk

A 30-Year “Cleanup” Without A Solution

Cancer-Causing Waste Along The Texas Eastern Pipeline in Pennsylvania Still Exists
By: Sharon Franklin, Chief of Operations
Jim Ryan of the Perry County Times recently reported that it has been over 30 years since the public first learned that the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation in Pennsylvania buried industrial fluids containing the carcinogen polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) along the natural gas line, which could represent thousands of tons of contaminated soil.
Unfortunately, the PCBs still have not been fully cleaned up and there isn’t an estimate for when that will be completed. Max Bergeron, a spokesperson for Enbridge, the owner of the Texas Eastern gas pipeline, stated, “We have undertaken PCB remediation efforts at (the Shermans Dale) facility in accordance with applicable regulations and are committed to continuing efforts supporting the health and safety of the communities in which we live and work.” However, according to the state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Enbridge is supposed to conduct PCB cleanups as it makes updates to its facilities, and that companies that previously owned the Texas Eastern pipeline were supposed to do the same, but did not completely remove all the PCB-contaminated soil. 
It has been confirmed that there are nineteen Texas Eastern PCB waste sites across Pennsylvania, according to DEP. When Bergeron was asked about how much PCB soil was removed and how much cleanup was left to do along the Texas Eastern line in Pennsylvania, he did not specifically answer those questions. 
 Why is this being reported now?  It is being reported now because it is the 30th anniversary of the 1991 Texas Eastern PCB settlement, but work on the natural gas pipeline has been ongoing in central Pennsylvania for several years. It came to the attention of the Perry County Times when a resident asked about regulatory violations at the Shermans Dale facility. They found the alleged violations on EPA’s website where it was noted the Shermans Dale Texas Eastern site had three violations in less than a year, including what appeared to be effluent runoff and emissions violations. However, EPA found no violations in their records, and Pennsylvania’s DEP said they were generated in error.
EPA spokesman Roy Seneca said in a May email that “We checked with our Water and (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) enforcement staff and they are not aware of any direct EPA involvement with these events.  They believe this was likely handled by the state.” Pennsylvania DEP stated that the incidents only appeared as violations because of a glitch in how data is uploaded to the EPA website.  Sometimes if a large batch of data is uploaded, it can trigger paper violations in error. But the permit for Texas Eastern Shermands Dale under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) had no violations attached to it. “The records we have regionally and downtown don’t show violations,” John Repetz, Local Government Liaison, said, referring to DEP’s records in Harrisburg.
There are many other communities throughout the country that are facing issues such as these. While EPA says it should have been handled by the state, the state says something like it was an uploaded data issue to the EPA site, therefore it wasn’t a violation.  This leaves communities along the Pipeline asking Why is there still cancer-causing waste along the Pennsylvania Texas Eastern Pipeline after 30 years and a settlement to cleanup PCBs in contaminated soil?
Photo Credit: Jim T. Ryan/Perry County Times

Homepage News Archive

Tensions erupt between environmental justice leaders and White House

Members of the environmental justice movement sent an email blast more than 5,600 times over a 48-hour period to top Biden administration officials, disrupting White House communication and sparking a tense exchange between the administration’s chief environmental outreach official and one of the key leaders of the movement.

The form-letter blast effectively shut down email communication over two August days between high-ranking Biden administration officials, including national climate adviser Gina McCarthy, her deputy Ali Zaidi, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and David Kieve, who leads outreach to environmental groups for the White House, according to Erika Thi Patterson, campaign director with the Action Center on Race and the Economy, and two others familiar with the incident.

Read more…
Photo credit: Al Drago/Getty Images