Inspection reveals no dangerous odors in West Grove, DEP report finds
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
The Department of Environmental Protection recently came to West Grove again, and this time, they found nothing.
In response to several phone calls to the London Grove Township on the morning of Jan. 28, a general inspection report performed by the DEP later that afternoon revealed that no dangerous odors were found in the area of Nutra-Soils, Inc., on 324 Old Baltimore Pike. This information was shared at the township's Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 3.
"No odors – other than those which could be attributed to normal mushroom composting operations – were detected during the inspection," wrote Richard Love of the DEP, at the conclusion of his report, which was provided to London Grove Township on Feb. 3. this inspection came just hours after representatives from several local schools -- as well as 49 additional e-mails that were also sent to the township on Jan. 28 -- contacted the township to complain of an odor, which was described as smelling like gas, ammonia, fuel, tar and chemicals.
At the time, it was erroneously circulated that the township has the expertise to determine whether or not the hydrogen sulfide levels from the detected odors were harmful. At the Feb. 3 Board of Supervisors meeting, board chairman Richard Scott Harper denied that fact, saying that the township "does not have the ability, expertise, or wherewithal to classify or determine whether any vapor is hamrful or not harmful."
In response, the township issued the following statement on Jan. 29, on its website:
"Yesterday, London Grove Township received a large amount of calls concerning a particularly potent odor in and around our community. London Grove Township has notified the PA DEP, the agency directly responsible for these types of situations, and also began to investigate the reports internally. Our investigation was unable to identify any one source, and was also unable to determine if the odor was hazardous or safe. London Grove Township did not issue any official positions yesterday.
"We will continue to cooperate with the PA DEP about this incident, and would strongly suggest area residents and organizations report their complaints and observations to them as well. We will provide updates as they are available on our website, and also on our Township Facebook page."
As stated in his report, Love wrote that he first met with Avon Grove High School Principal Scott DeShong during the afternoon of Jan. 28, in response to an "oily" smell that was detected at the school that morning, which continued to linger for the next half hour, and prompted DeShong to contact the township to report the odor. Representatives from the Avon Grove Charter School and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary School also contacted the township to complain about the odors.
In response, Love then met with Carlos Tenorio, the facility manager at Nutra-Soils, Inc., who gave Love a tour of the facility. While odors were detected, Love wrote that they were "not unusual to mushroom composting operations," and that the odors were not detected off site during the inspection.
"I asked Mr. Tenorio if any spill or other release of oil or fuel occurred that day," Love wrote. "He said that nothing like that had occurred."
The complaints registered on Jan. 28 to the township were similar to those heard during the Nov. 4, 2015 supervisors meeting, when over 50 concerned township residents targeted Nutra-Soils, Inc. for what those in attendance claimed is a regular and odorous emission of hydrogen sulfide into the environment, which include not only the air but nearby streams and waterways. The nearly one-hour-long discussion between supervisors and residents was first spurred on by two recent letters sent by township residents to the DEP, and one letter to the township, complaining about the excessive odor coming from the direction of the business.
Hydrogen sulfide [H2S] is defined as a colorless, flammable poisonous gas that has a characteristic rotten-egg odor. It is formed in the decomposition of organic matter containing sulfur, and is used as an antiseptic, a bleach, and a reagent. Figures from the American National Standards Institute state that increased exposure to high levels of H2S can escalate the severity of health concerns. H2S levels between 200 and 300 parts per million of H2S, for example, can develop eye inflammation and respiratory tract irritation after one hour of exposure, and if that number is increased to between 500 and 700 parts per million, it can result in loss of consciousness, loss of breath, and death.
The Jan. 28 inspection of Nutra-Soils, Inc. was not the first time the DEP has investigated the company. Over the last several years, Nutra-Soils, Inc. has committed 15 violations of DEP laws, during inspection reports. In April 2014, an inspection by the DEP of Nutra-Soils, Inc. documented a clear violation of the Clean Water Act; specifically, noting hand-dug channels from a million-gallon retention basin that were filled with spent mushroom substrate water. The DEP report documented that the basin was overflowing into nearby creeks.
About a year ago, the township purchased two water monitors from the Stroud Water Research Center, as a means of analyzing salinity levels in township streams. The results of recent reports document that downstream, there are spikes in salinity levels in streams near the vicinity of Nutra-Soils, Inc.
At the Nov. 4 meeting, supervisors proposed that a town hall meeting be held to discuss the odor issue in the township, one that will invite representatives from the DEP, as well as State Sen. Andy Dinniman, State Sen. John Lawrence and State Sen. Joe Pitts.
To date, that meeting has not yet been scheduled.
In other township news, the board passed Ordinance No. 202B, which modifies the section of the township zoning ordinance that regulates communication tower heights. Under the ordinance, commercial communication towers in the township will be restricted to a height of no more than 150 feet. However, one communication tower will be permitted to be as high as 200 feet, provided that it be used by state, county or local government services.
The board approved the contract agreement for the amount of $6,400 for the services of auditor Barbara Kane Thornton, for 2016.
The board awarded the contract for the construction of a bridge in Goddard Park – located near the Stonecroft Preserve – to Smucker Brothers Construction, LLC, of East Earl, Pa., for the amount of $12,500.
Supervisor David Connors said that he has begun talks with New Garden Township Police Chief Gerald Simpson to possibly enlist the part-time services of the nearby New Garden Police Department in the township, in order to compliment State Police coverage, and help cut down on nuisance crimes, parking problems and thefts.
Connors said that the proposal would use the New Garden Township Police for about 40 hours a week, which will cost between $70 to $75 per hour, which translated, will cost between $150,000 and $155,000 per year.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.