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DEP Issues Administrative Order Against Erie Coke Following Wastewater Release

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on April 1 issued an administrative order to Erie Coke Works following a spill at its facility.

According to the order, an initial 300-gallon spill occurred on March 18 because of a hole developing in a storage tank.  The hole was repaired the next day but a second spill on March 31 from the same tank – this time described as a “tank failure” – caused a “large volume of wastewater” to pond “in an area Northwest of the Tank bordered by railroad tracks to the North.”

Erie News Now summarized DEP’s concerns:

The wastewater contains, among other regulated substances, benzene, naphthalene, ammonia, and cyanide, the DEP said. According to the agency, Erie Coke committed several violations during the repair of the tank and the cleanup of the spill.  The incident constitutes unlawful conduct and the release of the wastewater creates a danger of pollution to the waters of the Commonwealth, according to DEP.”

As a result:

  • The DEP ordered Erie Coke to take the affected tank out of service and remove all wastewater before having certified professionals conduct what’s known as a tank tightness test within 10 days of the date of the order.
  • The DEP also ordered Erie Coke to submit a plan to remove all wastewater from the tank within three days of the order.
  • Within 60 days of the order, the DEP ordered that the wastewater/impacted soils and materials be properly characterized and disposed at a permitted facility.
  • Then, within 45 days of the date of the administrative order, Erie Coke “shall inspect all piping, sensors, alarms, and containment structures associated with the tank to determine structural integrity.
  • The DEP order also noted that the Erie Coke can appeal the issue to the Environmental Hearing Board.

While GASP is encouraged to see DEP take swift action against a problem polluter, the Order leaves a few questions unanswered.

First: Although DEP “inspected the facility and Erie Coke was repairing the SPR Tank” on March 19, how did the same tank fail just 12 days later?

Additionally, DEP’s order cited “Erie Coke’s failure to tightness test the SPR Tank” after the April 1 repair. Was such a test not required after the March 19 repair?

GASP is also concerned that further chemical analysis of the wastewater was not included in the order.  GASP hopes that these issues and other community concerns are addressed promptly by DEP as officials are able to gather more technical facts related to the incident.

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