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The PA Office of the State Fire Commissioner recently recognized the Newtown Fire Association (NFA) for successfully attaining the 75% recognition level as part of the Participating Department Recognition Program.The Participating Department Recognition Program recognizes those departments that support promote and encourage their emergency response personnel to voluntarily certify at various levels in accordance with nationally recognized and sanctioned Professional Qualification Standards."Your organization has accomplished an important goal and should be proud of this achievement," said Bruce Trego, State Fire Commissioner, in an April 18, 2019, letter to NFA Chief Matthew Gerhard. "With this recognition, you have demonstrated that your organization is competent and capable in providing quality services to the residents and visitors of the Commonwealth," said Trego.
Pennsylvania health official provided more details on a chemical blood testing study conducted last year near military bases in Bucks and Montgomery counties.
Long-term residents, men, and those living closest to military bases in Bucks and Montgomery counties have the highest levels of firefighting chemicals in their blood, according to a presentation given by Pennsylvania Department of Health officials at the Horsham Township Library on Monday night (April 29. 2019).
The presentation offered the latest details on a blood testing program the department conducted last year. The test enlisted 235 residents of Horsham, Warrington, and Warminster to have their blood drawn. While the department previously made public that residents of all three towns had elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in their blood, officials Monday presented more complex analysis.
Sharon Watkins, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology, said scientists found that in addition to higher levels of PFAS being found in those groups, those who used private wells as opposed to public water supplies, those who drank more tap water, and those with a higher body mass index had elevated PFAS levels. But after putting the data for statistical rigors, some stuck out more than others.
“When we did that, one of the primary findings was that the average serum levels ... were positively associated with drinking water source and total length of residence in the study area,” Watkins said. “If you lived in the area more than 10 years, you generally had higher levels of PFAS.”
See the data here.

On the agenda of the May 8, 2019, Board of Supervisors public meeting: Dan Angove, General Manager of the Artesian Water Company, is expected to present the latest Q1 2019 test results for PFAS in Newtown's water sources.

It is hoped that he will compare the results to the Q4 2018 results focusing on (1) how sampling is done. (2) When was sampling done? (3) Were multiple samples collected & combined for the test? (4) What company did the testing? (5) How accurate is the test?/What's the margin of error? The meeting, which starts at 7 PM, will be held at 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown.
Until now Tom Verricchia chose to remain on the sidelines of his proposed Super Wawa development in Plumstead Township because as he says, “ I don’t like to air my business in public.”
On April 15, 2019 township supervisors appealed a court ruling on the project in favor of site-specific relief allowing the zoning changes so the Super Wawa could be built. Then Verricchia contacted local newspapers and released a publication “to inform the public of our frustration and fairly express the situation.”
In 2017 Plumstead’s zoning hearing board denied the requested variances to allow a 4,700-square-foot convenience store with 10 gas pumps in the Commercial I district at Ferry and Swamp roads.
Verricchia responded with the appeal to Bucks County Court of Common Pleas which was decided by Chester County Judge Robert Shenkin, who had been appointed to avoid a possible conflict of interest because Bucks County Judge Jeffery Trauger owned a property included in the plan.
In March 2019, Shenkin decided that the township zoning “unconstitutionally excludes a legitimate land use” and that the developer is entitled to site-specific relief to have gas pumps at this location.
Instead, Verricchia proposes “Plumstead change its zoning to include the modern day convenience store with gas pumps, with a size convenience store that is economically viable.” He said that his development company tries to fit into township zoning but Plumstead goes too far in limiting use by size restrictions.
“We are not carrying the flag of the modern convenience store industry,” said Verricchia.
“Most of the development industry wants us to go to Commonwealth Court to open this up to the state of Pennsylvania,” he continued.
Supervisor Dan Hilferty said recently at a township meeting, “A township does not have to change their zoning to fit the business plan of a Super Wawa.” Pennsylvania zoning law requires uses to be provided for but gives townships the legal authority to zone for size and intensity of uses.
“Plumstead has provided zoning for convenience stores with gas pumps in Commercial II zones, in other locations in the township. Just because a Super Wawa of 4,700 square feet and 10 gas pumps does not fit into the site’s size and intensity constraints does not mean that the zoning is unconstitutional or exclusionary,” explained Reiss, in a phone interview.
Four years of controversy over a proposed hazardous waste treatment facility in Falls culminated in a dramatic denial vote by the township board of supervisors Tuesday night, eliciting a rousing applause by an audience of hundreds who stayed until just before 10 p.m. to witness the moment.
It was apparent early in the more than three-hour meeting that the supervisors were not keen to the plan, brought by Elcon Recycling Services, as their questioning of the company’s representatives was sharp and critical. Supervisor Jeffrey Dence led questioning late in the exchange, expressing concerns there wasn’t enough room to put in an additional fire lane for emergency access.
Questioning from Falls supervisors and the township’s professional staff made it clear they took specific issues with Elcon’s presented plans. The plans call for the processing of between 150,000 to 210,000 tons of chemicals and pharmaceutical waste each year, according to the company’s past filings. The company aims to build the facility on a 23-acre site in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex, an approximately 3,000-acre industrial park encompassing the former footprint of U.S. Steel’s Fairless Works operation.
Elcon representatives say its facility would be state of the art and create up to 120 short-term construction jobs and about 50 full-time operations jobs. The company has said the plant would produce little pollution and adhere to all environmental regulations. [Video rebuttal: “John Mack Lists the Air Pollutants the ELCON Hazardous Waste Treatment Plant Would Be Allowed to Emit”]
Opponents, primarily made up of local residents and backed by local environmental groups [In 2016, Newtown Township - among others - passed a resolution opposing this plant due to "danger" to drinking water. See here for more information about that.], are skeptical.
Falls officials also raised concerns over access for emergency vehicles, exit routes for workers in the event of an emergency, potential pitfalls in the facility’s spill containment measures, and other issues. One of the more pointed critiques was that Elcon would need to bring in about 5,000 trucks with 70,000 cubic yards of soil fill to raise the footprint of the facility above the floodplain, something they suggested that the zoning code discourages.
After the vote to deny, supervisor chairman Robert Harvie, Jr. noted the Department of Environmental Protection still has its own review of Elcon’s applications and doesn’t have to take into account the township’s decision, although he said he hoped it would [read “A Crowded Meeting Pits Citizens Against the PA DEP Regarding the Elcon Proposal”]. It also remains to be seen whether Elcon will appeal the township’s decision; representatives left the room before the conclusion of the full meeting, which closed with other township business.
John Brodowski, deputy mayor of Bordentown City in New Jersey, which has also opposed the plan, used his public comment to discourage the company from doing so.
“Respect the decision,” Brodowski said. “Let’s not drag this out with lawsuit after lawsuit.”
2019 © John Mack
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