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Property cleanup at Zion remains issue

| Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

An escape clause in a consent order between the state Department of Environmental Protection and Zion Bullitt Avenue Ltd. would absolve the company of future cleanup costs if it loses ownership of the property.

The consent order provides that if the company involuntarily loses control of and access to the property, owner Abe Zion would not be required to finish remediation work at the former glass-making facility if he doesn't regain access within six months.

The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. paid $305,000 to acquire the property after Zion failed to pay taxes, but the company is appealing the action. A decision on ownership could be reached in March when a trial to settle the issue is scheduled.

City solicitor Scott Avolio said the phrasing in the agreement is a concern for the city and county.

“The county's concern, quite frankly, is whether the agreement would be binding on them,” he said. “That's the question.”

Jason Rigone, executive director of the industrial development group, said the consent order is being reviewed to determine the legal ramifications if the county acquires the property. He declined further comment.

Zion Bullitt Avenue has removed PCB-contaminated soil, concrete, asbestos, demolition waste, mercury vapor lights and chemical-filled drums from a building where batches of chemicals were mixed for the glass-making process, according to the agreement.

The company still must remove glass cullet, or debris; soda ash, used as a flux for silica in glass-making; contaminated sand; boric acid, a flame retardant; and Novacite, which is quartz silica.

Zion was given a year to finish cleanup of the “batch house,” where chemicals were mixed. He must remove and dispose of the glass cullet within six months.

Other tasks that must be completed under the agreement include:

• Submit a plan to DEP detailing the extent of soil and groundwater contamination no later than March 31.

• Submit a cleanup plan.

• Remove bricks from ovens used to melt glass within eight months.

• Dispose of waste in state-licensed facilities.

If the company violates any of the terms of the consent order, it will be fined $1,000 a day, according to the document.

Avolio said the consent agreement is significant in that Zion has acknowledged environmental problems at the site, which has been the subject of ongoing legal dispute between Zion, the state and city.

“The city will be primed and ready to seek enforcement if these conditions are missed,” Avolio said. “The only drawback is we're skeptical that Zion will complete everything.”

The DEP conducted inspections at the property in 2010 and 2011. The state cited Zion for a number of violations of air and water pollution laws in 2011. He appealed to the Environmental Hearing Board but dropped the appeal last week after signing the consent agreement.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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