Baldwin zoning board denies plans for hazardous waste disposal company
The room erupted in cheers as Baldwin Borough’s zoning hearing board voted unanimously May 16 to deny a hazardous waste disposal company from operating on Streets Run Road.
About 200 people packed the Baldwin Borough municipal building, pleading with board members to stop the company from coming to their community.
They expressed concerns about about spills or accidents and toxins seeping into the air or leaking into the creek. They worried about their health and trucks traveling over train tracks in a flood zone.
“If we lose one individual in this area as a result of what they want to bring in here, that is one too many,” resident Jim Hagan said.
Tradebe Environmental Services was seeking a special exception to the borough’s zoning to operate a 10-day transfer facility from 4777 Streets Run.
The borough’s zoning does not list a trucking/waste storage depot in its uses, therefore a special exception is required. The area is zoned light industrial.
Tradebe’s plans were to use the location as a “hub,” said Joseph Walker, regional operations manager. The company operated out of Neville Island for the last several years. At the most, the site would have two trailers with 88 drums and one box truck with 44 drums.
A chemist, who doubles as a driver, would pick up chemical materials from businesses and universities and transfer them through the facility, where they would be consolidated onto a larger truck, then hauled to a facility in Chicago, Walker said.
All of the hazardous materials would be in containers that would not be opened on site, company representatives said. The company does keep fire extinguishers on site. Spill kits are kept on the trucks, and drivers are trained to handle spills, company representatives said. There also is a drain under the property that would remain closed in case of a spill.
“Typically, we haul solvent soap rags, household cleaners, that type of thing. We’re not permitted to haul any explosives, radioactives or bioactives,” Walker said.
The company is regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
While Walker specified the company will not haul materials that are “biologically hazardous,” he said, “it could be flammable; it could be corrosive.”
One truck has material to clean up spills from two drums, company representatives said.
“These aren’t tankers where the whole thing would leak out. So you wouldn’t have every drum bust,” Walker said.
“So, it’s like a Titanic situation, not enough lifeboats,” zoning board member Brian Meador said.
Residents also were concerned the facility did not have plans for security and would only be staffed at most times during the week. Another concern is the facility would not be monitored for air quality, as company representatives said that is not required by law.
Zoning board member Mike Sharp honed in with questions on what type of benefit the business would have to Baldwin.
Company representatives said they would bring two jobs to the area and would hold a hazardous waste disposal day on the site for Baldwin residents.
“So just to be clear, you have two jobs and we can bring down our Clorox?” Sharp asked. “I want to honestly know, if that’s the benefit that you’re bringing to the community…. If that’s it, then that’s it.”
“That’s the benefit we’re bringing to the community,” Walker said.
Others repeatedly asked about the possibility of accidents and how the company would handle them. Walker said the company has a contingency plan for how to respond and who to contact.
“You keep on saying, ‘Well, these are in sealed drums and never open up, that never happens.’ But there’s always that ‘what if’ factor,” Meador said. “What happens if something would happen, God forbid? What happens if something would get out, gets into the air, and then all of a sudden, into the water? What happens if people start getting sick?”
Several residents and a council member submitted letters against the plans. Neighboring businesses also chimed in, asking board members to keep the hazardous waste company away.
Gary Rohm, owner of All Pro Embroidery, told board members if they approved the application, he would move his business and its 50 employees elsewhere.
Some residents said they also would have to move. Many simply feared an accident.
“That railroad line, one car coming off the tracks there onto your property, hitting your trailer, can potentially wipe us out,” resident Daniel Shaner said. “Downstream is the Monongahela River. Upstream is Paynter Elementary School. Which are we willing to sacrifice? Either way, it’s our future.”
The zoning hearing board has 45 days to draft a written response to the company. The company then has 30 days to appeal the decision.