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Redevelopment at Richland Superfund site moves toward preliminary plan approval

104-townhome development project planned


Richland Township has approved the preliminary plan for a 104-townhome redevelopment project, adjacent to the Watson Johnson Landfill Superfund Site. The action was taken as a unanimous vote of the board of supervisors at its Dec. 12 public meeting.

Extensive discussion took place with concerned neighbors and the developer’s representatives, who provided 65 supporting documents. The township planning commission had granted preliminary plan approval at its meeting last month.

The discussion featured assurance that the Superfund site was still in existence, and accordingly still subject to ongoing monitoring and testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP). For more conventional new development responsibilities, responsibilities are to be shared, as usual, between the new Homeowners Association (HOA) and the township.

Officials noted that while the developer still needed to obtain final land development approval, the preliminary plan approval represented “most of the substantive issues.” Changes per the Dec. 12 discussion featured traffic, parking, and buffering concerns.

The Dec. 12 presentation was a followup to the supervisors’ public meeting last April, when the project was moved past the revised sketch plan phase. The original sketch plan had been reviewed, and then discussed at the site in 2021, among the developer and representatives of both U.S. EPA and PA DEP.

In a letter following that site visit, U.S. EPA’s remedial project manager for the site stated that “U.S. EPA recognizes that Richland Township has the lead on reviewing and approving redevelopment plans within its community,” and that his agency’s “role is to ensure any such redevelopment will not impair the integrity of its remedy at the site; is protective of human health and the environment; and is consistent with any land use controls imposed on the site property.”

That official added that among particular items already discussed, it was expected that access to the site would be kept open “during development.” He concluded that “based on our understanding of the general plans for the redevelopment of the site … EPA does not at this time object to the proposed redevelopment proceeding,” and that “it is EPA’s understanding that PA DEP has no objections either.” He added that as plans “become more detailed and finalized, U.S. EPA will need to review them.”

In 2019, hailed as a model for effective cooperation among local, state, and federal governments, the Watson-Johnson Landfill Superfund site groundwater remediation project in Richland Township was deemed completed. The project then moved into the maintenance stage, which features ongoing groundwater monitoring, toward assuring continued containment of a pollutant plume.

All 65 supporting documents for the redevelopment’s preliminary plan approval request have been posted on the township website, via the agenda for the Dec. 12 meeting.