<> A copy of the report is available on Pennsylvania's DEP's website (choose Regional Offices, Region II). For more information, contact Community Relations Coordinator Mark Carmon at 717 826-2511 or e-mail email@example.com .
DEP Northeast Regional Director William F. McDonnell announced March 31, that the department will not allow Keystone Cement to use hazardous waste as a fuel supplement until the company can make numerous operational improvements throughout its East Allen Township, Northampton County, facility. The improvements are identified in a recently completed report on the department’s investigation of the December 1997 incident at Keystone Cement, in which nearby schools and homes were evacuated when temperatures rose in one of the company’s hazardous waste storage tanks.
"The fire and internal tank explosion that occurred in one of the company’s hazardous waste storage tanks were the results of a series of equipment problems, inadequate waste handling practices and operator errors that began on or around Nov. 26, 1997," McDonnell said. "DEP will require Keystone Cement to institutionalize improvements throughout its facility prior to considering any resumption of the use of hazardous waste solvents as a fuel supplement."
The company will need to document to DEP that it has made the improvements and that it is able to operate safely.
A community meeting will be held to discuss the incident at 7:30 p.m. April 8 in the auditorium of Northampton High School. The incident report and a comment response document from a meeting sponsored by the George Wolfe Elementary School PTA in January are being distributed for public review prior to the meeting.
"Keystone’s application for expansion of the burn rates will not be reviewed until the company can document safe operation," McDonnell said.
DEP assembled a multi-disciplinary team to investigate the incident and to review the company’s report of the causes. The investigation, which was conducted in conjunction with a science and engineering contractor hired by EPA, revealed that Keystone Cement had accepted several loads of hazardous waste that were not suitable, improperly blended additional solvents with these shipments in the storage tank that caused a chemical reaction, removed the waste solvents to approved outside containers in an area without secondary containment capability, incorrectly installed flame suppression equipment and incorrectly diagnosed the problem.
Some safety equipment installed was either ineffective or irrelevant in preventing the incident. Keystone had not notified DEP that a fire suppression system was taken off line for modification in November 1997. The system was not operational on Dec. 8, 1997.
"The fire in December was not an isolated spontaneous phenomenon," McDonnell said. "The incident was caused by a series of mistakes, poor operating practices and decision-making by the company. Keystone will not be allow to burn hazardous waste until it can satisfy the department that it can operate safely to protect the community and the environment."