By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Low levels of hazardous substances have been found on the former Pennsylvania House site in East Buffalo Township, but remedial efforts should not delay the Penn House Commons ground-breaking projected for this fall.
That’s according to Howard Schlesinger, principal of Meridian Development Partners of New York, which owns the 41-acre site and plans to convert it to a commercial, recreational and residential plaza in Lewisburg.
Low concentrations of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds and metals were found in the soil and groundwater on site, though not all areas of the property were tested, according to Advantage Engineers of Mechanicsburg. The substances found do not exceed their limits under Act 2, or Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling Program, which allows for voluntary cleanup and reuse of contaminated industrial and commercial properties.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, volatile organic compounds are hazardous air pollutants and include a variety of chemicals that thousands of products emit, including paints and lacquers, cleaning supplies and building materials and furnishings such as those likely used during Pennsylvania House’s operations. Volatile organic compounds are everywhere because they’ve become essential ingredients in many products and materials. Outdoors, VOCs are volatized, or released into the air, mostly during manufacture or use of everyday products and materials.
Advantage Engineers filed a remedial investigation report about the property June 26 with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields Program, agency spokesman Dan Spadoni said. The report indicated “marginal soil contamination,” but DEP still needs to formally review the findings, Spadoni said.
Advantage Engineers took samples of soil and groundwater from sections of the former Pennsylvania House furniture manufacturing plant. In its report to DEP, the firm said its findings indicate that manufacturing operations “had minimal impact on the surrounding soil and groundwater.”
It’s unclear what, if anything, happens next to address the issue.
David Clouser, of Advantage Engineers, who authored the report, was unavailable for comment, and the firm deferred comment to him upon his return to the office.
Any corrective action is up to the developer, East Buffalo Township manager Stacey Kifolo said.
“The time line is theirs,” Kifolo said.
The township received a copy of Advantage Engineers’ report to DEP, she said.
“The findings are benign, and the solution has been addressed,” said Schlesinger, of Meridian Development Partners. “We are proceeding as planned and are well along in approval process for development of the property.”
Advantage Engineers did the work as part of a diligent inquiry for Giant Food Stores of Carlisle, which wants to put a store in Penn House Commons. Such an inquiry occurs so an investor essentially knows the viability of a property and what it’s getting into.
Giant Foods is committed to the Penn House Commons project, said Chris Brand, a spokesman for the grocer.
“We have no reason to believe we won’t soon be building a terrific Giant store for the Lewisburg community,” he said.
Developer J.C. Bar Properties must go through a process “to provide a clean building pad to the tenant,” which is Giant, and that includes “a full set of environmental assessments ... for our review and approval,” Brand said.