The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently began field activities as part of its environmental investigation at the former Erie Coke Inc. property located at 925 E. Bay Drive in the city of Erie.
This phase of the investigation will assess the extent of contaminants in soils, groundwater, surface water, and sediments at the site, officials said in a press release issued Friday.
“The investigation of this site is a big undertaking and one that will take time,” said DEP Northwest Regional Director Erin Wells. “The information gathered is critical to DEP, the community, and ultimately the reuse of the site.”
Since DEP announced in January that it would begin conducting further environmental investigation at this site, several steps have been completed as part of the process authorized under the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA). To date, DEP has finalized a scope of work for the project, assigned a DEP-approved contractor, and finalized a work plan for the investigation.
For the uninitiated: After Erie Coke shut down in December 2019, DEP successfully sought a court order to freeze $1 million of Erie Coke’s finances for use of removing waste from the site.
When those funds were exhausted, DEP requested U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) involvement to address waste remaining in tanks, containers, and piping, which posed an immediate threat to public health, welfare, and the environment.
Since then, the EPA has removed and disposed of waste, demolished buildings, recycled appropriate scrap materials, and is actively mitigating risks associated with remaining tanks, containers, and piping posing the greatest threat to public health, welfare, and the environment. The EPA expects removal actions at the former Erie Coke property to be completed in October.
Over the next few months, DEP contractors will conduct a boundary survey, clear and remove vegetation to access sample locations, perform soil borings, conduct a geophysical survey, and sample groundwater, surface water, soils and sediment.
DEP also created a website dedicated to providing information on the site and the investigation. The website includes a timeline for steps included in the process, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to documents such as the completed work plan, which is also available in hard copy format at the Raymond M. Blasco M.D. Memorial Library.
GASP staff worked diligently with the community group Holding Erie Coke Accountable during the last year of the facility’s operations to educate and rally residents. You can read more about our work in Erie here.
“While we’re glad to know that the site is being remediated, it’s unbelievably unfortunate that the DEP was forced to pick up the tab thanks to the social, fiscal, and corporate irresponsibility of Erie Coke’s owners,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. “We hope company officials will be held accountable for the mess they created and then abandoned.”