By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - PP&L Electric Utilities, in cooperation with the PA Department of Environmental Protection, is investigating the environmental effects of a manufactured gas plant formerly located at the present site of Burger King on South Main Street.
A letter sent to property owners in the area obtained by The Sentinel, dated May 14, provided an update on the investigation and a fact sheet, which notes that there are no threats to public safety or the borough water supply, and notes that "future work is expected to require at least the closure of South Market Street for an extended period of time."
According to the letter and fact sheet, the 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 Shenandoah Manufactured Gas Plant, which heated coal to produce gas. The plant was constructed in 1879 and operated until the 1950's, owned by predecessor companies to PP&L and UGI.
The plant was phased out and decommissioned in the 1950's, demolished, and the property was sold.
PP&L's current investigation isn't the first in the area regarding the former plant. In 1994, the company installed a seepage collection system in an effort to address odor complaints in the area. According to the fact sheet, the system has been effective, and was last evaluated in 2014.
According to the fact sheet, PP&L and UGI conducted a site investigation between August 2016 and May 2017 "to assess the conditions of the remaining underground infrastructure from the former plant, and the extent - both horizontally and vertically - of the impacts to soil and groundwater of residual (plant)-related materials."
During that time frame, crews cleared and evaluated subsurface utilities, investigated the location, depth, and contents of the former plant's subsurface gas holders, delineated plant-related materials, evaluated how and where groundwater in the area moves, among other activities.
Currently, according to the letter, PP&L is finalizing a draft Site Investigation Report to submit to DEP regarding the results of the 2016-2017 activities at the location. The letter continues to state the report is expected to be submitted early this summer.
PP&L, according to the fact sheet, is determining the next steps for remediation and supplemental investigation activities, based on the 2016-2017 investigation's findings. The steps will be summarized in a remedial action plan set to be submitted to DEP in late summer or fall 2018.
In the fact sheet, PP&L explains why offers were made on properties in the area.
"Although the remediation plan is still in development, future work is expected to require at least the closure of South Market Street for an extended period of time and is likely to impose other disruptions at certain properties, such as disruption of utility services," the sheet says. "[PP&L] is contacting property owners who are likely to be disrupted by the activity, which could begin as soon as the first quarter of 2019, pending PA DEP approval of the Remedial Action Plan."
According to the fact sheet, purchasing properties is a more efficient and cost effective approach, and "would avoid disruption for the property owner."
According to PP&L, there is no known threat to public health or safety, and the Municipal Authority of the Borough of Shenandoah water system is not affected by the site, nor is the Shenandoah Creek.
PP&L plans to hold a community information session "before any field work begins."