By Lauren Lavelle
In May, the Elcon Recycling Center of Falls Township began applying for permits to build a hazardous waste processing facility in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex, just a few miles from the Abbott Marshlands.
With over 3,000 acres of fresh and non-tidal marshes, ponds, swamps and woodlands located across Hamilton and Bordentown Townships, the Abbott Marshlands are a spectacle of nature that house many rare species of plants and animals.
“They are going to process waste from pharmaceutical companies,” said Mary Leck, an emeritus professor of biology and advocate for the Marshlands. “The companies are making their various medicines, which will generate waste that is going to be processed at the facility.”
Many worry that, with toxic fumes constantly circulating the air, and 17 to 25 truckloads of waste travelling through the area daily, the quality of the Marshlands will be threatened, and plant and animal life will dwindle.
“The impacts on the Delaware River are significant,” said Leck. “Let’s assume they have a spill. It depends on the kinds of chemicals and state of the tide, but there may be an impact on the plants and animals, especially in the spring and summer.”
At a Bordentown meeting of opposing groups in May, Leck expressed her overall opinion on the facility in a letter addressed to Mayor Jill Popko.
After describing the significance of the Marshlands, including the historical landmarks and archeological aspects, Leck explained the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
“Tides along the Delaware River and Crosswicks Creek can move waters back and forth 12 miles, making this unique wetland system particularly vulnerable to any contaminated water that might be released by Elcon,” she said.
And the damage does not stop there.
Bucks County currently holds the spot for the third-worst air quality in Pennsylvania and, with Elcon planning to burn more than a million pounds of toxic waste every day using thermal oxidation, the outlook is not too bright.
According to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Elcon claims they will take the proper safety precautions and follow the appropriate regulations to ensure the safety of the wildlife and residents in the surrounding areas. But, with various spills and accidents from other similar companies looming in the past, residents and advocates find it hard to trust such a statement.
“If a facility like this is really needed, then there needs to be rules in place that mitigate any potential problems,” said Leck. “I’d like to say no to it all.”
Freshman Anna Fenton, an elementary education major, understands the potential risks that come along with this facility and can already see the impact it may have on the Marshlands.
“There are so little natural reservation areas as it is, it is wrong to disrupt the Marshlands with something so toxic and unbeneficial,” said Fenton. “In a few years, there will not be any wildlife left if we continue to progress at this rate.”
Currently, Elcon is approved for Phase I of their project and are in the process of applying for their Phase II permits.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network encourages those hoping to get involved to attend the local Supervisors and County Commissioners meetings, contact the Falls Township legislators and supervisors about the issues at hand, and volunteer with the local Protect Our Water and Air (POWA) organization to stay updated on Elcon’s progress.