Battle against hazardous waste incineration in Philadelphia

Susan K. Snow (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:56:51 -0500

From: Mike Ewall <>


Please show your support for the grassroots citizens group AIR of Lock
Haven in their battle against the hazardous waste incineration at the
Drake Superfund site. (Please see below for details on the case, latest
information from AIR, and Sierra Club's position letter to EPA.)


PLACE: Federal Court House, 12th and Chestnut Sts., Philadelphia, PA
TIME: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. (hearing will last approximately 1 hour)
DRESS: Court appropriate attire
I am trying to get a rough count of how many folks will be attending, so
please email or call me if you and your friends plan to attend--a rough
estimate is fine.

Hope to see you there! Thanks!!!

Nancy Rauch
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Conservation Chair

AIR IS going to be back in Fed. Appeals court in Phila. on April 16th.
The three judge panel that heard our case on 2/7 has decided this case
is too important for them to make a decision!!! So they are going to
hear the case "en banc", meaning all 15 to 17 judges in the third
circuit will hear the case on 4/16.

It is CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT for us to pack the courtroom with supporters.
At the last hearing there were more EPA and Dept. Of Justice people in
attendance than activists...which doesn't look good for us. At stake is
whether citizens groups have the right to sue the EPA over Superfund
cleanups before, rather than after the cleanup is completed, based on
the probability of irreparable damage to human and environmental health.
It is very exciting that the whole court will hear this.

We are the first grassroots group in the country to get this far, and
the decision will impact all future attempts of citizens to have a say
in how Superfund sites are handled. Our lawyer is arguing the facts on
constitutional issues, as well as past precedent setting cases.

If you could mobilize a contingency from Sierra Club and others in your
area to go to Phila on 4/16, it would be a great help to us. The
hearings (we are one of two scheduled that day and they start at 10 AM)
will be at the Fed. Courthouse at 12th and Chestnut Streets. Please let
me know if anyone is interested in showing up at the hearing, and I will
get you more details as we get closer. Vicki

Recent update from AIR:

Dear Nancy, We received a copy of the Sierra Club letter from Phil
Coleman to McCabe. It looks good. Thanks again.

Wanted to update you on the plans for 4/16. Mick Harrison, our lawyer,
is delighted at the prospect of filling the courtroom with supporters.
He feels that is even more important than a demo because the judges are
the main focus at this time and they need to see our support. Last time
EPA, DEP, and DOJ had their people out in force. There were probably
about 15-20 of them. We need to get as many as possible there for us.
Court begins at 10 am and there are only two cases scheduled for the
day. Each case should last no more than one hour. Since we don't know
which order they will hear the cases, it is important to be seated, in
the courtroom and dressed appropriately for court, by 10. Do you think
you can rally some support?

Maybe the SEAC students, as well as Sierra Club and PEN folks, would
come to the hearing.

I know the students are anxious to take part in demonstrations, and we
would welcome that also, although not if it is at the expense of the
courtroom attendance. What we had in mind was a demo in front of EPA
HQ, which is right around the corner from the court. We would like to
do this immediately following the hearing, and will have our lawyers and
all of us to participate, so there would be plenty of "sound bites" for
the press. We think this demo, along with SC's letter to McCabe, would
be very effective.
Let me know what you think, if you have any other ideas, and how many
people you think you could muster. As soon as we are sure about a demo
we can start working on the press people. Thanks...Vicki

Mr. Michael McCabe
841 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-4431
April 4, 1997

Dear Mr. McCabe,

At its Conservation Committee meeting on March 8, the
Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club adopted the
following Resolution:

Whereas: The Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club opposes
the incineration of hazardous wastes;

Be it Resolved:

1) That the Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter,
supports the group Arrest the Incinerator Remediation (AIR)
in its opposition to the incineration of soil contaminated
with chemicals , including phenol and beta napthalene, at
the Drake Chemical Company Superfund site in Lock Haven, PA.

2) That the Pennsylvania Chapter supports the right of
citizens to sue EPA to prevent the incineration, before
incineration proceeds at a Superfund site.

3) That the Pennsylvania Chapter supports a closed-
loop technology as a safe method of handling hazardous waste
and remediations.

Since 1994, AIR has opposed the EPA decision to
incinerate soils at the site. After a number of meetings
between citizens and EPA, and after a suit by AIR was
dismissed in Federal District Court, and before a promised
risk assessment had been completed, a trial burn was
initiated in September of 1996.

Problems emerged almost immediately, including failure
of the scrubber, release of untreated emissions into the
atmosphere, a jammed rotary kiln, broken chain drive, and
otherwise operating out of compliance. The incinerator
failed to destroy the most prevalent chemical, beta
napthalene (BNA) to federal specifications.

Nevertheless, the trial burn was completed in February
1997. AIR's consultant on site reported that the air
perimeter monitors (the EPA's guarantee that the community
would be protected) had not been functioning properly. To
"fix" the problem, EPA increased the detection limits of the
monitors by a factor of 2000. Further, test soils were
diluted, and the chain of custody of ash samples taken
during the trial was breached. Glassification of soils in
the kiln indicated that illegally high temperatures had been
used in the effort to destroy BNA.

Incineration, considered as late as 1980 to be the
safest and most efficient method for treating Superfund
soils, has been found to fail its mission in many tests and
scientific studies since. As early as 1984, an EPA study
found that acid gasses and particulates were not always
controlled. Since that report, no major hazardous waste
incinerator yet studied has achieved the required 99.99
percent destruction and removal of toxic substances. EPA
has acknowledged that incinerators cannot destroy (and might
even generate) dioxin (Jacksonville, AR, 1993).

In view of all these considerations, the Pennsylvania
Chapter requests that the Lock Haven incinerator be shut
down until the end of 1997, or until AIR's lawyers and
consultants have an opportunity to review and comment on the
still unreleased risk assessment, due out this summer.

In a Catch-22 dilemma, the Superfund law prevents
citizen suits to prevent incineration at a Superfund site
before incineration proceeds. Only after damage is done may
citizens bring suit. The Pennsylvania Chapter supports the
right of citizens to sue before incineration.

A number of technologies exist for treating soils
contaminated with hazardous wastes, including
bioremediation, carbon absorption, dechlorination,
neutralization, and oxidation (used to treat phenols). New
technologies have been developed in recent years. EPA has
not considered the use of these technologies at Lock Haven
since 1988, when the decision was made to incinerate. The
Sierra Club supports the use of a closed-loop technology
that will not release contaminants to the air, water or

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club requests,
in view of the above problems, that the EPA reconsider the
Record of Decision to incinerate at the Drake Chemical
Superfund site in Lock Haven, PA.


Phil Coleman
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Chair

cc: Carol Browner
James Seif
Congressman Peterson
Senator Madigan
Senator Corman
Representative Hanna
Vicki Smedley

Nancy V. Rauch
Sierra Club SE PA Group and PA Chapter Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Central Appalachia Eco-Region Chair
POSTAL: Nancy V. Rauch, 411 Pensdale Street, Philadelphia, PA
PHONES: 215-487-2076 (home) or 215-898-6067 (work)
"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
-- Soren Kierkegaard