Shut Down Clean Metal!
Hazards of Incinerator Ash:
Clean Metal is the newest waste processing facility in Chester. They started operation in November 2002 after being kicked out of Fairmont, West Virginia. They operated for about two years in Fairmont, creating major dust and noise problems for the local community. Neighbors homes were coated in black dust from Clean Metal and the company never cleaned up the mess. Noise kept people awake at night. Local residents organized, gathered petitions and got the support of their local government officials, who ultimately denied Clean Metal a permit.
Clean Metal takes incinerator ash, removes metals like iron and aluminum from it, and sells these metals to steel mills in NJ, PA and WV. The remaining ash is brought to the Rolling Hills (Colebrookdale) Landfill in Boyertown Borough, Berks County, PA.
Their only customer is the American Ref-Fuel trash incinerator at Front and Highland in Chester. However, they are likely to try to import more toxic ash to Chester for processing.
Clean Metal is currently operating out of a decrepit old building next to the American Ref-Fuel trash incinerator (near Front and Highland). The building is close to the Delaware River.
Incinerator ash is defined as hazardous waste under international law, but it's not regulated as hazardous by U.S. environmental laws. Incinerator ash is full of many toxic chemicals, including heavy metals such as lead and mercury as well as ultra-toxic dioxins and furans which are produced in the incineration process. Exposure to this ash is hazardous for the workers, the local community and the environment. If Clean Metal begins importing ash to Chester, this will further increase the hazard, as more ash is trucked in and out of Chester. Waste trucks are notorious for leaking and spilling waste throughout the community.
Clean Metal’s track record in West Virginia has been awful for the local residents, with dust and noise problems described as "intolerable." The Chester facility's operations are also very sloppy. The air is dusty enough to cause scratchy throats in those visiting for only 10-20 minutes. Ash and metal debris litter the floor of the building. Walking around in the facility kicks up noticeable clouds of ash dust. The building has many broken windows and large hangar-like openings on three sides, enabling a good breeze to move through the building, taking the dusty air out with it, polluting the local environment.
There are serious worker safety issues. Clean Metal has been cited with OSHA violations at their former location in Fairmont, WV. Workers at Clean Metal in Chester pick out unburned rags, wood and paper from the ash. Clean Metal has proposed installing a conveyor belt “picking line” where workers will be expected to hand-pick metals from the toxic incinerator ash. Some of Clean Metal's employees have limited respiratory protection, but seem not to use it much. They have no eye protection. Simply breathing the air in and around Clean Metal puts workers and neighbors at risk of toxic exposure from the ash dust. There is no health monitoring for the workers. Clean Metal has only six workers and is non-union. They hope to add a second shift, but this will likely depend on their finding customers who can ship additional waste to Chester.
After facing local opposition in West Virginia, Clean Metal was lured to Chester by a loan from the Delaware County Industrial Development Authority. They have located next to their only customer (the American Ref-Fuel trash incinerator in Chester). This is also a convenient location in the country because it’s much closer to the cluster of over 30 trash incinerators between Boston and Virginia. It’s likely that Clean Metal will try to import toxic incinerator ash from other incinerators to their proposed facility in Chester. In an August 7th, 2003 Press Release, the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has stated: "Although the proposal calls for Clean Metal LLC to accept up to 100 tons of metal per day from American Ref-Fuel, it may import material from other sources in the future."
An “informational meeting” is different from a “public hearing.” A “meeting” is an unofficial, off-the-record forum where the DEP and the corporate polluter (in this case, Clean Metal) get to try to convince the public that there is nothing to worry about. They take and answer questions from the public.
A “public hearing” is an official forum where the DEP will have representatives sitting at the front of the room and they will take notes on what the public tells them. Comments will go on the official record. They will not answer questions, but they will take notes. Months later, after they give the polluter a permit, DEP will send out a response document listing people’s comments and why they are ignoring or dismissing each one.
Meetings and hearings are both optional. You have the right to demand a public hearing. DEP is likely to hold both because they consider Chester to be an “environmental justice” community and their newer policies encourage them to do more public outreach before approving permits for polluters in low-income and minority communities.
The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) allowed Clean Metal to operate without a permit since November 2002. They later decided that Clean Metal ought to have a permit and Clean Metal is now seeking a "general permit." A "general permit" is a relaxed permitting process where a company like Clean Metal can ask to have a "me too" permit -- essentially getting to copy a permit that another company in the state has received.
Clean Metal has no scales to measure the tonnage of ash and metal, so there is no way to ensure they are within the limits that their proposed permit would allow.
DEP attempted to hold an "informational meeting" on August 12th, 2003, but Chester residents shut down the meeting. There is still an opportunity for a public hearing and to pressure DEP to deny the permit.
YES! Chester residents have accomplished many victories over the years, preventing, shutting down or cleaning up many polluting facilities.
Residents in Fairmont, WV -- after two years of witnessing Clean Metal's dirty operation -- managed to stop them through their local government. In Chester, we can stop them by getting the city government to do their job or by getting the state DEP to deny Clean Metal's application for a general permit.
Clean Metal has only a small investment in the Chester facility so far. The operate in an existing building and have only located a small trailer office and one piece of processing equipment in the place. These can easily be removed. No permanent structures have been built.
Clean Metal, LLC
22 High Street
Elkins, WV 26241
Andrew J. Gongola, Managing Partner (and 100% owner)
Lloyd Hudson, Plant Manager
PO Box 15
Chester, PA 19013
The property where Clean Metal is located is owned by Front & Thurlow Street L.P. a company run by the Abbonizio family and related to adjacent Abbonizio Recycling Corporation's concrete and asphalt operation.
Last modified: 17 August 2003