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KANJORSKI PROVIDES COMMENTS TO DEP ON HAZLETON CREEK PROPERTIES PERMIT APPLICATION

KANJORSKI PROVIDES COMMENTS TO DEP ON HAZLETON CREEK PROPERTIES PERMIT APPLICATION
 
Also Receives Response from ATSDR on Assessment of Application
 
WASHINGTON – Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) expressing his opposition to Hazleton Creek Properties’ most recent application for a permit to use flue gas desulfurization (FGD) material as fill at a former mine pit in Hazleton.  In the letter, Congressman Kanjorski discusses a recent response to his inquiry from the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) about the harmful effects that such material could have on public health, groundwater, soil gas, and air quality.  ATSDR is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The new permit would add FGD gypsum to the experimental mixture of coal ash, river dredge, and construction demolition material for use at the site.  DEP opened a 60 public comment period on the permit application which closed on September 29.
 
“Hazleton Creek Properties is actively trying to get a permit to use materials that have the potential to cause harm to Hazleton residents,” said Congressman Kanjorski.  “I have expressed my concerns about this project in the past for the sake of the safety of our residents and workers.  My recent correspondence with ATSDR highlights that such materials could harm the health of residents, and threaten the air we breathe and the water we drink.  This potential damage is unacceptable.  I deeply understand that many workers rely on this project for jobs, but we must determine the health impact of these materials before we continue to subject these workers and residents to them.  In my letter to DEP, I expressed that I strongly believe they should not issue permits if they do not know the health effects of such experimental material.  We must ensure that our residents are fully protected.”
 
On August 30, 2010, Congressman Kanjorski sent a letter to ATSDR requesting an assessment of Hazleton Creek Properties’ most recent application.  On September 29, 2010, Congressman Kanjorski received a response from Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Administrator of ATSDR, expressing concerns about the material used by Hazleton Creek Properties.  On November 23, 2009, Congressman Kanjorski sent a letter to the DEP Secretary John Hanger requesting that DEP reject Hazleton Creek Properties’ previous permit application because it was experimental and potentially harmful to the community.
 
Click here to view the response letter from ATSDR to Congressman Kanjorski from September 29.  The text of Congressman Kanjorski’s letter to DEP Secretary Hanger from September 29 follows:
 
Dear Secretary Hanger:
 
The purpose of this letter is to provide comments regarding my opposition to the permitting of a project proposed by Hazleton Creek Properties, LLC to use flue gas desulfurization material at a former mine pit in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  I appreciate your attention to my concerns.
 
It is my understanding that Hazleton Creek Properties has applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a permit to allow the company to use flue gas desulfurization material, also known as synthetic gypsum, as fill for a former mine pit in Hazleton.  This new permit is in addition to three prior permits issued by DEP to allow Hazleton Creek Properties to accept river dredge, fly ash and construction demolition materials at the site.
 
The third permit for the use of construction demolition materials at the site was issued by DEP in March 2010.  I was extremely concerned about this permit because it allows Hazleton Creek Properties to use construction materials, including gypsum board, as fill at the site.  Previously, a permit to use construction materials at a former mine site had never been issued in Pennsylvania and I was very concerned about the safety of disposing of these types of materials at the site.  As a result, I contacted DEP with my concerns about this application.  It is my understanding that the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Region III also provided informal comments regarding the application and in particular raised concerns about the disposal of gypsum board at the site.
 
In June 2010, Hazleton Creek Properties again applied to DEP for a permit, this time to use flue gas desulfurization material at the site.  It is my understanding that flue gas desulfurization material is also known as synthetic gypsum.  This is the same material used to make gypsum board, which ATSDR had previously raised concerns about. 
 
As a result, I contacted ATSDR and requested that they provide me with an assessment of the latest permit application by Hazleton Creek Properties.  Enclosed is the response that I received from Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Administrator of ATSDR. 
 
In his letter, Dr. Frieden raises concerns about the degradation of gypsum-containing materials.  Specifically, ATSDR notes that the anaerobic degradation of these materials generates hydrogen sulfide and human exposure to hydrogen sulfide is of concern to the agency.  Dr. Friedan included an attachment which outlines ATSDR’s activities at the Hazleton Creek site and the agency’s previous experience with gypsum-containing waste material. 
 
At other sites, these materials have resulted in the generation of hydrogen sulfide which has been measured at air levels of health concern in nearby communities.  In addition, ATSDR notes that hydrogen sulfide has been responsible for a number of potential human health threats such as landfill fires, and contamination of groundwater resources, soil vapor and ambient air.  Also, ATSDR notes that once the process of hydrogen sulfide generation begins, it is very difficult to control in landfills that do not have liners, leachate collection and treatment systems and daily cover requirements. 
 
Finally, ATSDR states that, based on the information available, they are unable to evaluate the potential exposure to the surrounding community.  ATSDR indicates it cannot determine what contaminants may be released into the community’s groundwater, soil gas or ambient air by the fill material.  Therefore, ATSDR is not able to make any specific conclusions regarding the suitability of gypsum containing materials at the site.
 
It is clear to me that the types of materials Hazleton Creek Properties, LLC wants to use at the Hazleton site could be potentially harmful to the community.  ATSDR essentially reaffirms my thoughts by stating that similar materials used in other sites have been harmful to the public.  Furthermore, I am tremendously concerned that insufficient information is available to determine if the community’s environment will be impacted.  I strongly believe that we should not issue permits if we do not know how the proposed work will impact the air we breathe and the water we drink.  As a result, I urge DEP to reject the requested permit for this site.
 
Again, thank you for your consideration of my comments.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions and concerns.
 
Sincerely,
 
Paul E. Kanjorski
Member of Congress
 
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