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Lilly's Texas-Eastern site still has PCBs 30 years later according to DEP

Texas-Eastern site in Pennsylvania

All total, 19 Texas Eastern sites across Pennsylvania still have confirmed PCB waste sites, according to DEP.

… vital question:“will these PCBs affect Lilly’s water?”

Back in the mid-1980s, I received a phone call from a journalist I knew who asked me if I knew what was transpiring with the Texas-Eastern transmission company which had a facility located a few miles out of Lilly.

I did not, but as president of the borough council, the journalist, Dave Callen of the Altoona Mirror, started telling me the story of the breaking story about PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and Texas-Eastern. It eventually became another scandal, but at the point, I knew nothing.

Remember, this was prior to the period when a person could run to his computer and search Google for terms like PCBs.

Quite frankly, while I knew about the controversy, I was basically clueless.

Dave asked me to meet with him and a photographer at the company’s site. I had mixed feelings about it for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I knew nothing about what was taking place either there or across the country.

However, I did meet with them after Dave asked me this question about the PCBs that were buried on the site, which was located in Cresson Township but had a Lilly address and name,

Will these PCBs affect Lilly’s water?

Dave Callen, Altoona Mirror, February 1987

That indeed caught my attention — big time. If these PCBs were indeed buried on the site in Cresson Township, which is close to streams that feed our reservoirs, then we could have a major concern.

PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)

What is truly scary is that these PCBs are still on the Texas-Eastern sites in Pennsylvania, including the Lilly operation, based on information from the Department of Environmental Protection that came out on a nefarious anniversary,

All total, 19 Texas Eastern sites across Pennsylvania still have confirmed PCB waste sites, according to DEP …

The PCB lubricating fluids were dumped between 1978 and the early-1980s after Congress banned the use of PCBs for their cancer-causing properties and evidence that they could cause other health problems, such as harm to reproductive systems and other internal organs. The revelations about the dumping resulted in millions of dollars in fines and requirements to clean up the sites. Some sites were cleaned in the 1990s, according to the state.

Jim T. Ryan, “Cancer-causing wastes still exist along the Texas Eastern pipeline 30 years after settlement,” Perry County Times, September 25, 2021

Breaking news in 1987

The story that Dave had read was probably from the Washington Post, whose reporting had led the Environmental Protection Agency, which was basically a non-entity under Ronald Reagan, to finally investigate a practice that had been taking place since the president had taken office in 1981.

The news exploded across Pennsylvania and the country since Texas-Eastern was a transmission line that carried large amounts of oil from Texas to New Jersey — and apparently overseas where the oil companies could make significant amounts of money. It cross through Pennsylvania on the New Jersey line,

Texas-Eastern admitted to dumping the carcinogens on its properties,

As many as 18 sites in Pennsylvania, stretching from the state’s southwest corner to New Jersey, are contaminated with cancer-causing PCBs dumped by a major natural gas pipeline company.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed that Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. of Houston, Texas, told the agency in August 1985 that it had dumped PCB-laden liquid in 104 earthen pits in at least 10 states.

A Texas Eastern spokesman said the PCBs were all dumped in open pits and then covered with soil. The pits are located at the company’s compressor stations, which push natural gas through the 10,000-mile pipeline running from Texas to New Jersey. The spokesman said all the earth pits are located on fenced-in company property.

“Gas pipeline’s PCB sites identified throughout state,”

The Morning Call (Allentown), February 25, 1987

Washington Post story

The Post had written a few stories as this broke, and it showed how suddenly, the EPA thought that maybe this should be an issue into which they should delve,

The Environmental Protection Agency, concerned about the dumping of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by gas pipeline companies, said yesterday it has created a special task force to deal with the problem and has expanded an existing investigation to cover 11 major companies.

A week ago EPA officials said that Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. admitted pouring PCB-laden liquids into about 100 pits in at least 10 states along its 10,000-mile pipeline route between Texas and New Jersey. The company has denied any health hazard.

"The task force was assembled because data from the Texas Eastern investigation suggested that a large and complex assessment should immediately be made to ensure environmental safety throughout the nation's gas pipeline system," said EPA spokesman David Cohen.

Another official said, "Obviously this is a big problem. We want to move quickly to be sure there isn't a public health threat."

The EPA said it plans to inspect Texas Eastern's disposal pits within a week and will quickly notify the public if a health threat exists. EPA said the investigation involves criminal and civil laws.

Mary Thornton, “EPA widens probe of PCB dumping by pipeline

firms,” Washington Post, February 26, 1987

What about Lilly’s water?

In the 1980s, the borough council in Lilly started a major upgrade of its water system, and I was proud to be part of that effort. It started with an in-depth study of the water system by P. Joseph Lehman Engineers of Hollidaysburg. They recommended that we first build a new chlorinator, and to do that, we contacted our state legislators, State Sen. Mark Singel and Rep. Edward Haluska. They helped secure a $43,000 grant for that, and then we started a long-term effort to replace all of the transmission lines in the borough.

Led by water commissioner Francis (Hubba) Patterson and aided by Dave and Bill Clear, workers first replaced part of the Main Street and Railroad Street lines. However, we also suffered some severe damage that was done in the general Texas-Eastern area by another pipeline company called Pace.

The question was whether or not the PCBs that were stored on the Texas-Eastern property could conceivably find its way into the groundwater and the streams that feed our system.

I first called Dick Sweeney, the council VP, and the following day, spoke with Joe Lehman and asked his engineers to look at the potential danger. They ultimately decided that even if some seepage did occur, it was unlikely to find its way to our reservoirs.

1991 Agreement to remove them -- not done

Nevertheless, the concerns about the sites did not dissipate since the company had admitted placing the carcinogens into holes that they dug on their property which they then covered with topsoil.

All that Texas-Eastern admitted was this,

Neither EPA, Texas Eastern nor Weston officials (in eastern Pennsylvania) will reveal any details of the Pennsylvania sites other than to say the earth pits are 15 to 30 feet in diameter and all have “PCB levels at or above trace amounts.”

“Gas pipeline’s PCB sites identified throughout state,”

The Morning Call (Allentown), February 25, 1987

What is frightening is that the government sat on this for many years before it finally broke,

According to news stories from the Perry County Times and the Patriot-News in 1991 – when state authorities leveled record fines against the gas line – Texas Eastern employees dumped PCB-laden lubricants into pits at 85 sites along the pipeline’s 10,000 miles between Texas and New Jersey from 1980 and 1984.

The Environmental Protection Agency became aware of the dumping in 1984 but didn’t pursue enforcement for more than two years. That was about the time media outlets such as the Washington Post began reporting on the dumping practices that Texas Eastern employees had admitted, according to the stories in multiple newspapers.

The state Department of Environmental Resources (precursor to DEP) began testing sites in Pennsylvania soon after, confirming widespread PCB presence and dumping at Texas Eastern properties. Texas Eastern Transmission, sometimes called TETCO, was fined $18 million by the state in a 1991 settlement. TETCO agreed to cover cleanup costs estimated at the time to be between $200 million and $400 million. The company also settled with the EPA around the same time, paying an additional $15 million fine.

Jim T. Ryan, Perry County Times, September 25, 2021

The fines were one thing, but cleanup was something else that never completely occurred.

Here are the sites in Pa. where PCBs still exist,

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