Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Company will test mine fill for radiation

Company will test mine fill for radiation
By KENT JACKSON (Staff Writer) Published: October 14, 2009


A company agreed to test mine-filling material for radiation after state environmental officials found deficiencies in its plan for a research and development project at Hazleton's proposed amphitheater site. Hazleton Creek Properties revised its plan to include conducting gamma spectography tests for radioactive energy on fill that it wants to put into a 60-acre mine pit.
The company proposed filling the pit with a mixture of dredged material, regulated fill and fine material from construction and demolition sites.

During the next five years, 1.4 million cubic yards of fill would arrive by truck or train at the site bounded by Routes 924, 93 and 309, according to an application that the company submitted on Aug. 24. On Sept. 23, officials from Hazleton Creek discussed the deficiencies in their application with state officials in Harrisburg. A week later, the company revised its plan to include testing the fine material for radiation, revising tests for selenium and asbestos and looking for radioactive hydrogen in well-water samples.

Through the project the company hopes to speed up work on the site that Mayor Lou Barletta proposed as the home of a 20,000-seat amphitheater and demonstrate a beneficial use for fine material statewide. In its application, Hazleton Creek said a laboratory would keep hazardous substances out of Hazleton by testing the material before it is shipped. The plan called for using GPS devices to note the placement of each load within the pit and for testing groundwater every three months. Tests would occur monthly if a well beneath the pit shows contamination Hazleton Creek also told why the project should last five years and involve 1.4 million cubic yards of material. The state general permit through which the company is applying requires applicants to get special permission for projects lasting more than one year or using more than 50 tons of material. "It is essential that a large quantity of material over a(n) expanded area be used to demonstrate that the proposed performance standards can be achieved," Hazleton Creek wrote in its revised application. The size of the project drew the notice of William Lockwood, a leader of SUFFER or Save Us From Future Environmental Risks, which challenged the previous plans of Hazleton Creek. The most egregious part of this is they're going to put in such an amount in here. If 50 tons is in here and it turns bad, it can be removed," Lockwood said. But 1.4 million cubic yards is too much material for a limited liability corporation such as Hazleton Creek to remove if something goes wrong", Lockwood said.

Lockwood also faulted the logic of saying construction and demolition materials now must be put in landfills, but mixing them with dredged material makes them OK to bury in Hazleton's mines. The mixture of construction and demolition materials and dredged materials hasn't been used as fill anywhere in the United States, House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-116, who is Hazleton's state representative, said when asking the environmental department to consider the potential risks of the project. Construction and demolition materials could contain hazards such as arsenic, lead, mercury, beryllium, asbestos and PCBs, Eachus said Tuesday in a statement. Eachus also said the volume of material amounts to 40,000 times more than the department usually permits in a demonstration project.

If emergencies develop, Hazleton Creek would the contingency plan that it developed earlier when starting to reclaim the site. The company's application listed other safeguards, such as testing material before shipping, verifying that manifests match deliveries, and sampling for methane and hydrogen sulfide gases. Inside the pit, fill material can contain 943 parts per million of lead, according to a standard set for the site, the application said. Nationally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set limits for lead in soil of 400 ppm in play areas and 1,200 ppm in other areas.

In revisions to the plan, Hazleton Creek said it would monitor blending of material that occurs away from Hazleton at its facilities in Bayonne, N.J., or Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia. Blending also can occur inside the pit with heavy equipment, the application said. The company also agreed to test every 1,000 cubic yards of fine material for volatile organic compounds as part of its sampling routine.
Fine material could be as small as 2 inches in diameter and would result after workers sort construction and demolition material, crush it with bulldozers and sift it through screens.

The process begins when workers remove asbestos, wallboard, lamp ballasts containing mercury and other items from construction and demolition debris. They also would set aside boards and concrete blocks. The remaining material would be processed.
Proportions of dredge, fine material and regulated fill would depend on the characteristics of the substances and performance standards, the application said. The materials would be packed into lifts 2 feet high. After reclaiming land, Hazleton Creek would bore holes through the fill to analyze whether the material can support buildings or other uses. While Hazleton Creek seeks permission to fill the pit as a demonstration project, the company already has approval to import different fill material to the site under two other permits.

One permit lets the company cover a former landfill at the site with dredge material. It can use regulated fill such as brick, block, stone separated from construction and demolition sites and dredged material while building roads and a rail line at the site. Another permit allows the company to combine dredged material with fly ash and kiln dust - fill that the company hasn't tried yet.
During the demonstration project, Hazleton Creek said it also would keep following the procedures set by its existing permits for testing dredged materials and regulated fill.

People will have a chance to comment about a research and development project at Hazleton's proposed amphitheater site, a state spokesman said. John Repetz of the Department of Environmental Protection said a notice about the plan of Hazleton Creek Properties tenatively will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Oct. 24. A 30-day comment period will start after that.

Comments about the research and development project of Hazleton Creek Properties can be directed to: Ronald C. Hassinger, Chief, General Permits/Beneficial Use Section, Division of Municipal and Residual Waste, Bureau of Waste Management, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources, P.O. Box 8472, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8472. The phone number is 717-787-7381.

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