By Kaylee Lindenmuth | email@example.com
SHENANDOAH - A set of row homes, a pair of freestanding homes, and multiple garages in the southeast section of town have been demolished "in preparation for final environmental remediation" regarding the former Shenandoah Manufactured Gas Plant.
PPL Electric Utilities has been investigating the environmental impacts of the former plant, which was located where Burger King stands today and operated from the late 1800s to the 1950s, since May of 2018, when letters were sent to property owners in the neighborhood regarding their environmental investigation.
"The site is now a privately owned commercial property," said Patrick Lester, PPL communications specialist. "PPL Electric Utilities is addressing environmental impacts that resulted from the former plant’s historical operations."
According to the letters and fact sheet mailed in May last year, the earlier investigation's primary focus is to evaluate the "extent of impacts from coal tar, coal tar residues and oils in the soil, and groundwater at the site and in the immediate vicinity." Coal tar was a byproduct created by the former facility, which heated coal to produce gas.
Earlier this year, the utility company acquired about half the block bounded by Market, Poplar, Laurel, and White Streets, and a home on the west side of Market, and around August 5, FMG Construction began demolishing structures on the PPL-owned property.
PPL sent a letter to property owners and residents in the neighborhood on July 24, saying seven properties would be demolished -- 309, 311, 313, 315, 317, and 322 South Market and 324 South White -- as well as garages on former Reading Anthracite property purchased by PPL.
As of August 22, all structures had been removed, and workers remained on site removing debris, and, according to Lester, the work is expected to continue through next week. A portion of South Market Street is closed while the work is underway.
"All work is being performed in accordance with applicable Pennsylvania regulations, including Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling Program (Act 2), and with full engagement of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP)," said Lester. "As for the future of the properties, once the work is completed, we will apply grass seed on the land until the future of the property is determined based on discussions with the borough."
"I've had contact with them. They told us what they're doing," said borough council President Leo Pietkiewicz. "Coal tar leached into the ground, they did their testing, found out to the extent where it leached. They're removing all that and will backfill it."
"They will meet with us about specifications and what purpose we want to use it for," Pietkiewicz added. "Can we use it for a park, or housing, but we would have to fund that part. They would set up the ground, when it's finally reclaimed, to our specifications."
The next phase of the project, PPL said, is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2020, "pending receipt of necessary state approvals."
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