It is important to remember that Evergreen is responsible for investigating and remediating contamination that was present up until the time of the sale of the facility to Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) in 2012. Any releases or emissions from refinery operations or other site activities after 2012 are the responsibility of the new property owners.
The Remedial Investigation Reports that DEP requested be “reopened” for public comment were submitted over various years between 2011 and 2017. They each included all historic data including data collected up to the time of the report. At the time of their review, DEP determined in their approvals that data included in the reports was reliable. The potential effects of climate change will be determined in the future contaminant Fate & Transport Remedial Investigation Report (reminder that the F&T report is an RIR).
Groundwater analytical data and field measurements are collected routinely from the wells at the facility, not just as part of remedial investigations. The RIRs presented all historic and current data up to the time of the reports; however additional data has been collected since those dates. The groundwater quality figures presented in the August 2020 public information session included data up through and including 2019. The current “edges” of plumes are defined not only by past data, but by data collected recently and also will be evaluated using future laboratory data and predicted through fate and transport modeling.
Soil data also spans many years, as multiple characterization activities have been conducted in each of the AOIs. Many of the areas of focused soil sampling included efforts to characterize and delineate past releases/issues/historic activities, not ongoing ones. Therefore, data collected closer to the time of release versus later in time would be more conservative as petroleum compounds naturally degrade over time, while data collected to delineate a past release would more accurately reflect current conditions. Evergreen contends that the soil data included in the RIRs accurately characterizes the environmental impacts that Evergreen is responsible to investigate under the Act 2 Program. Hilco and Evergreen will also collect a significant amount of additional soil data as part of the development process. We will develop the Cleanup Plan(s) using all appropriate data.
The Groundwater Remediation Status Reports, which are submitted to the PADEP, are meant to provide brief updates on data collected and remediation activities throughout the Act 2 process, including during the time between RIR submittals and after the RIR process is complete. Any and all data collected up until the time of an RIR was included in the RIR reports, and any new data collected subsequent to RIRs are included in RIR addendums or other Act 2 reports including the Fate and Transport RIR and the Cleanup Plan. Since new data are included in future Act 2 reports, already approved RIRs are not updated as new data is collected. The Conceptual Site Model (CSM), which is discussed in each of the RIRs, was also approved by PADEP. However, Evergreen noted in its presentation that a CSM is continually updated as new data/information is known about a site. We will utilize the results of all RIR activities – along with any subsequent data as both soil and groundwater data continue to be collected– in future CSMs in the Fate and Transport RIR and Cleanup Plan to support future determination of necessary remediation.
Answer also addresses similar comments below:
3) The data in these reports was mostly collected between 2011 and 2017, and are too old to be trusted to reflect the current conditions and contaminants in all areas. The amount of time passed, the additional pollution from several years of refinery operation and fires, and the heavy rainfall that the area has received in the past decade all probably resulted in changes or movement of some or all contaminants, including moving more off-site and into the lower aquifer. New sampling needs to be conducted in all areas, on land and in water, to both verify actual conditions and contaminants and to test for contamination that was not tested for at all (like PFAS compounds), and to test some areas, like both shallow and deep portions of the aquifer, more thoroughly. As new sampling is done, if it becomes apparent that the old “edges” of contamination have moved, the sampling areas need to be enlarged until new “edges” are well-established.
4)Evergreen completed its remedial investigation reports over three years ago. Given the fire incidents and other changes during that time, relying on older data seems questionable. Evergreen should provide evidence that data from these reports are still representative.
5) All of the RIRs, as well as the Ecological Risk Assessment and the Site Wide Lead Human Health Risk Assessment, were completed between June 2011 and December 2017. As all of these reports are now three to ten years old, we request that Evergreen demonstrate that the data in the RIRs remains consistent with the site’s current conditions.
6) Evergreen needs to revise its remedial investigation reports to conform both with evolving scientific knowledge AND with the evolving state of our world due (at least in part) to changes brought on by climate change.
7) Evergreen’s Conceptual Site Model is fundamentally flawed, necessitating substantially revised reports for public comment before submission to the Department.
8) Evergreen should revise the reports to reflect up-to-date material (including data and analyses from Groundwater Monitoring Status Reports).
9) The Remedial Investigation Reports are deficient because they fail to address the impacts of climate change – including sea level rise and storm surges.
10) Evergreen should revise its remedial investigation reports to adequately account for the impacts of climate change on existing soil and water contamination. These impacts could occur before, during, and after remediation. Sea level rise, storm surges, and the increased frequency and volume of events like superstorms could have major implications on the migration of contaminants in the soil and groundwater. Evergreen completed its remedial investigation reports over three years ago and it is not clear whether the data underlying the reports are still reliable. Evergreen should provide evidence that data from these reports are still representative. Please take these comments seriously and make the necessary changes.
11) Climate change presents one of the most significant threats to the health, safety, and sustainability of our communities. Flooding is one of Philadelphia’s central climate vulnerabilities, and the location of the former refinery site puts it at significant risk. At present, Evergreen has not included any climate change impact analysis in its RIRs or released any other information on how climate change will impact the site and how that could change the necessary remediation efforts. EPA Region III has released policy guidance stating that sea level rise should be considered as part of the remedial investigation stage.10 We request that you follow this guidance and update all relevant Act 2 materials to include the impacts of climate change on the site.