Visible progress made, but hazards still at Zion site
There are changes happening at the former Jeannette Glass site — certainly not at the speed the Department of Environmental Protection would like to see and certainly not the types of changes the DEP requires of site owner Abe Zion.
But there are changes happening at the site. The property is no longer overseen by city businessman Frank Trigona. City resident and former Jeannette Glass employee Jeff Means is now the site manager.
The biggest changes are visible. While the property is not entirely cleared, in fact large areas are not cleared at all, some buildings have been torn down and much of the metal on site that could be scrapped for money has been removed.
“All of the work done at the plant was done to salvage the scrap metals and valuables,” said Ed Howley, city code enforcement officer. “There was no or very little hazardous materials removed from the plant. It was all stockpiled on the plant. The only items removed from the plant were metals of value and there were strict rules from the DEP. The check list was not completed and very little was removed. The DEP is not happy with what is being done down there.”After the state cited Zion last year for a series of alleged environmental violations, the DEP gave the company a March 31 deadline to clean up the property. Howley said the deadline the DEP gave to Zion to clear the site has been extended to June.
The DEP is considering stronger measures to force New York-based Zion Bullitt Ave. Ltd. to comply.
“There has been some work done on the site, but not nearly enough to satisfy the DEP,” spokesman John Poister said. “We are very, very frustrated with the slowness of the process. We're looking at what our next steps and options are.”
He said there has been a “little bit of work” and a “little bit of sampling,” but little real progress.
From the city's perspective, Howley said, and from a visual standpoint, progress has been made.
“If you go down to the site, you can actually see movement. A lot of the metals, a lot of the buildings are torn down and the work is continuing to remove those dilapidated buildings. I think that is a giant step for the future of the City of Jeannette when it comes to removing that eyesore,” Howley said. “It will give the city a better skyline, a better look. It will eventually be a possible new development.”
If the work ordered by the DEP is not completed by June, the agency could take action though Poister would not say what action the DEP is considering. Through the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, the state could clean up the site and bill Zion for the costs.
“It's just not moving fast enough for us,” Poister said. “We gave Zion a very specific punch list saying, ‘Here's what needs to be done.'”
Abe Zion hired Trigona to supervise cleanup and test for hazardous wastes that state inspectors found during several inspections. Among those wastes were asbestos, arsenic, acetone, lead, solvents and PCBs from electrical transformers.
Trigona oversaw the removal of scrap metal from dilapidated buildings, but little was done in the way of testing and remediation, Poister said.
He said soil samples are being tested for PCBs and the DEP is awaiting the results.
Trigona said he answered the DEP's questions about the project.
“I got the punch list, and I answered all the questions for Zion before I left,” he said.
Trigona said he left Zion's employ in a dispute over money. He said Zion has not paid him for his work.
He said he brought in a company that did sampling for hazardous materials at a cost of $55,000. Trigona said he also removed diesel fuel from underground storage tanks, and the metal was sold for scrap. He said there is asbestos on the site, but the amount is insignificant.
Last year, the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. bid $305,000 for the 13.2-acre site and assumed ownership because Zion stopped paying property taxes. Zion is appealing.
Mark Zion, Abe Zion's son who manages his business affairs, is scheduled to give a deposition in the case on May 10, according to court records.
Zion also is appealing a series of environmental violations filed by the DEP involving the Clean Streams Act and the Air Pollution Control Act. The appeal is before the Environmental Hearing Board in Harrisburg.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 724-838-5154. Richard Gazarik contributed to this report. Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.