Danville city officials have a number of safety concerns regarding the the old Philips Lighting plant which state authorities are now investigating.
On April 17, Interim¿City Manager Ron Scott sent a three-page letter by certified mail to Len Peters, Secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet of the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection. In the letter, which was copied to Danville City Commission, Scott asks for an investigation of whether the 320 Vaksdahl Ave. site is “an imminent hazard that threatens the environment, the ecology, and the health of people in the city of Danville, Boyle County and the region.”
The plant ceased operations in¿February 2011, and Philips still owns the site. In an interview last month, state geologist Ken Logsdon said a required hazardous waste report Philips officials submitted to the KDEP Feb. 27 showed elevated levels of lead but nothing that posed an “extreme danger” to anyone. The report was filed late but did not lead to any fines, according to Logsdon. He noted that Philips officials were cooperating with state officials to promptly clean up the site.
Logsdon did not return a telephone call made this week seeking additional comment.
Scott’s analysis of the hazardous waste report is that soil samples across the entire Philips property have unacceptably high levels of not only lead, but also arsenic.
“There is no permit to release arsenic in the air or water,” Scott wrote. “Arsenic is a glass component which was used ... for possibly a prolonged period ... ”
In the letter,¿Scott says the highest reported arsenic level is more than 12 times the screening level used by theU.S. Environmental Protection Agencyand the KDEP.
The bottom line is that lead and arsenic could possibly be discharged into the environment with every rainfall, according to Scott’s letter. Thus, water discharges could possibly flow into Clark’s Run and into Herrington Lake, which provides drinking water for thousands of people in the region. Such pollution could also impact “extensive aquatic life,” Scott noted.
“The magnitude of potential health, safety and ecological problems stemming from these environmental issues could be significant,” Scott wrote.
Scott urges the KDEP to promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter and to keep him as well as elected officials informed as to the progress of the investigation.
State officials referred inquiries regarding the letter to a prepared statement issued Thursday.
“The Kentucky Division of Waste Management (DWM) is working to answer the questions and address the issues contained in Mr. Scott’s letter,” wrote Tony Hatton, director of the Division of Waste Management. “The letter was not received until two days ago, and the issues raised are complex. An official response to Mr. Scott will be forthcoming shortly. DWM recognizes that there are concerns about possible sediment in out-fall ditches, and potential off-site impacts and efforts to address that will be expedited.”
Anna Broughton of Danville, a former Philips employee and owner of NeoStar Glass LLC, had hoped to work with Philips to bring her business to the site. However, she said because negotiations have taken so long, she is exploring other options. NeoStar eventually would expand into manufacturing pharmaceutical, architectural and even solar glass.
“Part of NeoStar’s proposal was to supply some glass products to Philips and to assume some responsibility for elements of remediation so that it could be speedily accomplished in conjunction with its start-up operations,” said Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership President Jody Lassiter. “However, Philips has not accepted NeoStar’s proposals to date, and NeoStar is now assessing an offer to acquire the property outright if it is in the best interests of the project’s feasibility.”
Lassiter said Philips has listed the Vaksdahl Avenue property for sale at an undisclosed price through Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc. and that he is meeting with a JLL representative today to discuss how to best market the property to another industrial user.
Lassiter declined to comment on any issues associated with remediation of the site or Scott’s letter.
Repeated telephone calls and emails to Philips officials seeking comment were not returned.