Bishop Tube Development Proposal
Update: As of February, 2018, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has pursued three legal actions regarding the Bishop Tube site:
1. February 21, 2018, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed an appeal with the Environmental Hearing Board challenging the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) ratification of two amended Prospective Purchaser Agreements (PPA) (which are settlement agreements) entered into with a proposed developer of the former Bishop Tube site, a highly contaminated site located in East Whiteland, PA. The organization challenges the agency for being a rubber stamp on the deal that were not publicly noticed until 7 to 10 years after they were signed by the state. The challenge asserts that the state failed to acknowledge critical changing facts, including that the DEP had voided key elements of the agreement which it chose not to disclose to the public, and that the anticipated development shifted from commercial to residential, but this too was not acknowledged by the state. The case is ongoing.
2. November 8, 2017, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a legal challenge against the Pennyslvania DEP for its “manifest neglect and dilatory conduct, over a period of seventeen or more years to clean up or cause the cleanup of past and present hazardous releases at the Bishop Tube Hazardous Waste Site (“Site”), which have caused contamination to spread off-Site, and impacting the off-Site groundwater quality, and to impact the Little Valley Creek, an Exceptional Value stream. The main contaminants of concern are Trichloroethylene (“TCE”) and other chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds (“VOCs”) and metals. These contaminants were released at this Hazardous Site and may continue to be released due to the malfeasance of the DEP and potentially responsible parties.” The case is ongoing.
3. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network submitted two Right to Know Requests to PADEP on February 23, 2017, and PADEP denied access to all responsive records, citing the internal predecisional deliberation exemption, the attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine. On April 20, 2017, the organization appealed that decision. On July 5, 2017 the Delaware Riverkeeper Network received a favorable decision from Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records (OOR), who found that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) improperly withheld public records regarding the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland/Malvern, PA.
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More than 200 people showed up at a June 7 informational meeting to challenge the Pennsylvania DEP about the proposed development of the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Township. Residents are concerned about the proposed clean-up of toxic TCE at the formal industrial site. PADEP officials were also challenged by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network about details of the case that had not been released to the community.
UPDATE 7.26.2017: Click here to see video of residents speaking out in defense of their first amendment right to oppose development of, and demand full clean up, the Bishop Tube site.
UPDATE 6.7.2017: Click here for DRN Comment re PADEP deal with the developer
The Bishop Tube Site is a former metals processing plant located in East Whiteland Township, PA. The site is bordered by Little Valley Creek, a tributary to the exceptional value Valley Creek. Portions of the site are wooded. As a result of the historic uses at the site it has been designated as a Brownfields site.
Groundwater, soil and surface water at the Site are contaminated with TCE, which is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA, and related products. TCE is chlorinated solvent and one of the problematic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) identified at the site, first in 1987. Chlorinated solvents are dense non-aqueous phase liquids, or DNAPLs. They are denser than water and have a low solubility. However, they are sufficiently soluble to cause a problem in both ground and surface water. The EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) for TCE is 0.005 mg/l, with a zero desirable concentration (https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/table-regulated-drinking-water-contaminants#Organic, visited 2/18/17). EPA lists it as a discharge from metal degreasing sites or other factories and that it causes liver problems and an increased risk of cancer (Id.). Related compounds could include 1,1,1-trichloroethane and 1,1,2-trichloroethane (Id.).
Constitution Drive Partners, the current owner, is proposing a residential development at the site. They want a $1 million grant of state funds to undertake a partial remediation of the site so they can cut the trees, alter the landscape and build over 200 residential townhomes. Saturated soils and groundwater, including discharges to neighboring Little Valley Creek, would remain with plans for full remediation unknown.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network opposes the project. We are joining the community in calling for full remediation of the site, at the expense of the known responsible parties, the natural woods, wetlands and creek protected, and the property turned over to the community as preserved natural open space.
The 13.7 acre Bishop Tube site (located in Chester County, PA, on the east side of Malin Road, south of US Route 30) has been abused by industry for over 50 years. The site, formerly used to process precious metals and fabricate tubing and pipeline products, is heavily contaminated with chlorinated solvents, acids and heavy metals. This contamination has impacted neighboring communities and the environment.
Rather than continue the abuse, and destroy all the natural beauty of the site for a massive, oversized, development, the community wants the site contamination fully cleaned up by responsible parties and the site protected as natural open space. Protection will benefit all who live around the site in Frazer, Malvern and East Whiteland, and will benefit all who appreciate, enjoy, and live along Little Valley Creek, tributary to Valley Creek, the stream directly in jeopardy from the proposal.
Contaminants currently at the site include TCE, nitric and hydrofluoric acids; various oils; and other hazardous materials not properly handled or disposed of. Industrial operations began in 1951. The plant closed in 1999.
While the site is dangerously contaminated, there is also beautiful nature worthy of saving. Woodlands, wetlands and Little Valley Creek, part of the exceptional value Valley Creek watershed, grace the location as well.
The proposed development, including approximately 200 new homes, would cut trees, damage the creek and wetlands, and only partially address contamination at the site. Saturated soils and groundwater would remain highly contaminated. Contamination would continue to affect the surrounding environment and community, including ongoing discharges of contaminated groundwater to Little Valley Creek. When full remediation would take place and at whose expense continues to be totally unknown.
Update Re SLAPP Suit: June 27, 2017, Brian O'Neill and his corporate counterparts filed a SLAPP suit against the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum, a private citizen and threatened to include 10 additional residents as defendants. On August 22nd the suit was quickly dismissed with the judge ruling:
"This is what we call constitutionally protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution..."
September 22, Brian Oneill and his counterparts appealed the decision, once again misusing the law to try to threaten opposition to his plans for Bishop Tube.
Environmnetal group challenges decision on bishop tube site, Daily Local, 2018-02-22
DEP accused of neglecting cleanup of contaminated Chesco site, State Impact, 11/09/2017
Chester County Judge Issues Opinion on SLAPP Suit Dismissal (2017-10-24) DRN Press Release, 10/24/2017
Community Protests Bishop Tube Site, Daily Local News, 10/14/2017
Judge throws out developer’s ‘SLAPP suit’ against environmental group, State Impact, 08/23/2017
Chesco advocates accuse developer of trying to muzzle free speech over toxic site, State Impact, 07/27/2017
Activists response to legal battle with developer at bishop tube site, Daily Local News, 07/26/2017
East Whiteland Officials Pull Support for $1 Million Development Grant, Daily Local News, 07/16/2017
Residents Pack East Whiteland Meeting to Oppose Bishop Tube Plan, Daily Local News, 06/9/2017
Chesco Residents Urge Officials to Reject Development Plan for Contaminated Site, State Impact, 04/25/2017
Foes: Don't Develop Bishop Tube Site, Daily Local News, 04/21/2017
On Toxic Site Abandoned for Decades, Developer Sees Townshouses Sprouting in Chesco, Philly.com, 04/10/2017