No More Toxic Ash in Chester!

Shut Down Clean Metal!

Philadelphia Inquirer:

  • 8/13/2003 DEP Hearing is Broken Up by Protesters

Recycling Today:

The Times West Virginian:

  • 9/24/2002 Clean Metal leaving state — Recycling facility to begin Pa. contract
  • 4/5/2002 Clean Metal doesn’t get salvage yard permit — Manager: ‘We don’t want to open a junk yard on Speedway’
  • 4/4/2002 Clean Metal manager sees no problems with neighbors
  • 2/20/2002 Still not cleaned up — Clean Metal plant operator seeking salvage yard permit
  • 12/09/2001 Dust from plant ‘intolerable’ — City, Clean Metal: Problem should be solved soon

Wednesday, Aug 13, 2003

DEP Hearing is Broken Up by Protesters

By Tina Moore
Inquirer Staff Writer

A DEP public hearing for a proposed metal-recycling plant on the Chester waterfront was crashed and broken up by about 40 angry sign-toting residents last night chanting “hell no” and driving away the company’s owner.

A state Department of Environmental Protection official was describing the permit process to about 30 residents and city officials when the protesters streamed in shortly after the meeting started. They carried signs and shouted “not here,” “no dirty metal” and other expressions of disapproval.

“Take it where you live,” protester Blondena Garrett shouted from the back of the crowd.

The protesters then quickly encircled Andrew Gongola, whose company, Clean Metal LLC, wants to build the plant.

Clean Metal proposed building the plant in Chester last year, after abandoning a similar project in Fairmont, W.Va., when residents complained. In Fairmont, the plant generated a black ash that residents said seeped into their homes. In Chester, the closest residents to the proposed plant would live less than 100 yards away.

Gongola said that his proposed plant would have a different recycling process than the factory in West Virginia and would not emit ash.

The company has said it wants to start operating on Aug. 1. “Without our process and other companies that do what we do, this metal would end up in the landfill,” he has said.

Residents said last night they didn’t want any new plants.

“This is not a new dance in this city,” said activist Zulene Mayfield.

Gongola, who did not have a chance to speak during last night’s meeting inside Leake Community Center, left as soon as the crowd closed in on him. They followed to his SUV.

Police cruisers pulled up just after Gongola left and remained as the protesters returned to further disrupt the meeting, which was then canceled.

“It’s unfortunate that the people who came here for information didn’t have the opportunity,” said Alisa E. Harris, who works with the DEP.

Pastor William McLaurin, a Chester resident, said he had come to the meeting for information, but understood the protests.

“I can understand the sentiment of the people, because none of these facilities has done anything good for our community,” he said.

Contact staff writer Tina Moore at 610-627-0352 or .

Scrap Metal Company Relocating


Clean Metal, a metal recycling company that operated in Fairmont, W.V. has relocated its operations from Fairmont, W.V. to Chester, Pa. However, according to Andrew Gongola, a managing partner with the company, the decision to relocate was not due to complaints from residents (as reported in some local press reports). Rather, the move was done to be closer to its one customer.

The company has been in operation for around two years. The company operates unlike many traditional recycling facilities, by servicing one customer, American Ref-Fuel. Additionally, the company will only be providing a handful of segregated products.

The facility, which should be operational at its Chester facility by the middle of October, will have a totally enclosed operation. The facility will be taking in primarily ferrous scrap from the waste-to-energy concern. The move will bring the company close to its supplier. The company extracts ash from the metal. “All my company does is service American Ref-Fuel,” Gongola says.

Clean Metal will resume operations in October in Chester, Pa., adjacent to the American Ref-Fuel facility.

According to Gongola the move makes economic sense to be close to the one supplier, rather than to the steel mills the company will be servicing.

As for press reports that the company moved due to pressure from residents, Gongola says “the local controversy was blown so far out of proportion.”

A recent article in the Times West Virginia did note that the company had earlier been denied an application for a salvage yard permit, which would have allowed Clean Metal to store scrap metal outside. Thursday, September 26, 2002

Clean Metal leaving state

By Misty Poe Phillips
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Recycling facility to begin Pa. contract

After months of disputes with East Fairmont residents, Clean Metal will take its business out of state.

As of Sept. 17, the metal recycling facility has ceased all operations and is in the process of dismantling equipment, said Clean Metal managing partner Andrew Gongola.

By October, Gongola said, Clean Metal will begin work on a new contract in Chester, Pa., and thanks to a development authority loan given to the company by Delaware County, they will employ more workers. The plant processes scrap metal and sells it to steel mills, where it is recycled for use in new steel.

None of the 14 local workers employed by the recycling plant will relocate with the company.

The move comes after months of citizen complaints against the recycling plant and several attempts by owners to bring the facility up to the city’s code requirements.

In April, the company was denied a salvage yard permit by the Fairmont Board of Zoning Appeals. That permit would have allowed the company to maintain piles of finished metal legally outdoors.

Several neighbors of the recycling plant attended the April meeting to complain about noise, black residue on their properties and the unsightly appearance of the company’s grounds.

“The controversy in Fairmont helped contribute to the decision to move the company,” Gongola said.

“The development authority in Delaware County is eager to attract light manufacturing businesses that pay good salaries,” he said. “They pursued me vigorously and tried to convince me to move my company there.”

Fairmont City Planner Jay Rogers said that once Clean Metal was denied a salvage yard permit, the city began to work with the company and communicate ways that the facility could be brought into code compliance.

“But in the end, rather than to continue to do that, they chose to relocate their facility,” Rogers said. “We tried to be very mindful of the business community, but when it infringes on the safety, general health, welfare of the entire community, that’s why the ordinances exist.”

After two years of having to clean black, greasy residue from her porch that she attributes to the plant’s operations, Philomena Sellers said that she is glad to see Clean Metal go.

“They weren’t very good neighbors,” the Speedway Avenue resident said.

“They said (the residue is) not their fault, but we did not have this problem before they came,” Sellers said. “We have lived here for 58 years. That’s a long time to not have a problem.”

Clean Metal doesn’t get salvage yard permit

By Kelly Barth
Friday, April 05, 2002

Manager: ‘We don’t want to open a junk yard on Speedway’

An East Fairmont metal recycling facility, Clean Metal, didn’t get its salvage yard permit from the Fairmont Board of Zoning Appeals Thursday night, a move that could have given the city some latitude in regulating the plant.

The board decided to deny the permit despite advise from city attorney Kevin Sansalone to postpone the decision until the board had more time to review the information presented at the hearing.

A throng of Clean Metal’s neighbors packed city council chambers to object to the company getting the permit. They said, with a salvage yard permit, Clean Metal would likely give them more problems than ever in the way of dust, noise and eyesores.

Plant manager Barry Bledsoe said the stockpiles of scrap metal have been removed from the site for good. Outside, all that remains are four piles of finished material. A salvage yard permit would have allowed Clean Metal to legally maintain the piles outdoors. Bledsoe said this was the only reason the company was applying for the permit.

“We don’t want to open a junk yard on Speedway,” Bledsoe said.

Clean Metal opened about 18 months ago and 14 people are now working there. The plant processes scrap metal and sells it to steel mills where it is recycled for use in new steel.

Bledsoe said he’s been addressing complaints from the neighbors. He said complaints about noise in the middle of the night are unfounded because the plant is no longer in operation 24 hours.

“There’s a minimal amount of noise, mostly from the loading of the trucks,” he said.

Congregation member Tom Messenger and the Rev. E. Gerald Gray of the First Nazarene Church on Morgantown Avenue said the noise was terrible, at one point, between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“You can’t go to sleep. You can’t even say your prayers the noise is so loud,” Speedway resident Philomena Sellers said.

Others said the dust bothers them more than the noise does. Many of the residents said they’ve lived through years of Owens-Illinois, and later Pioneer Southern, but the dust from Clean Metal is worse than problems they encountered with those neighbors.

Dr. John Hando, environmental inspector-specialist for the state Division of Environmental Protection, said he’s run tests on the dust at the plant, and in the neighborhood around it, and he plans to conduct more. Initial, crude analysis shows that dust that is potentially coming from the plant and found on neighboring homes seems to have a higher content of nickel than in dust found elsewhere. Though somewhat high it still seems to be within acceptable levels, he said.

Hando said it will probably be another three weeks before he knows what the greasy, filmy material is that neighbors have been finding on things outside their homes.

“It could be carbon,” he said.

Clean Metal manager sees no problems with neighbors

By John Veasey
Thursday, April 04, 2002

Barry Bledsoe, plant manager of the Clean Metal company, denies charges that his firm is not being “a good neighbor” as charged in a Times West Virginian editorial Wednesday and implied in several published letters to the editor.

He says a Department of Environmental Protection report can clear his firm of having any adverse environmental effect on residents in the Speedway area where his plant is located.

“We’re not having any impact on the neighbors,” he said, a statement contrary to what several residents of that area have reported.

“There is some noise from loading of trucks but it is not unusual for an industrial C site,” he said. “People say we keep them awake all night but we’re only open from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. There is no one here during the night.”

Bledsoe explained that his company takes metal material from a waste-to-energy incinerator and processes it to make it viable feed stock to make new steel. It currently has 14 employees, down from a high of 17.

He claims the problem is “a perceived one. We’re doing everything we can do. They’re complaining about our activities that are in full compliance with the law.”

As to reports he is applying for a salvage yard permit, he said “we don’t even want that permit. The city said we had to have one. This was in direct response from a neighbor’s complaints about our operation. We’re not a salvage yard. We’re a recycling facility. We don’t operate a junk yard.”

“We’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to stay in compliance and to be good neighbors,” he said. “The DEP is down here every week. We have never been out of compliance with any environmental regulations.”

Bledsoe said he has talked to neighbors “who have no problem with us whatsoever. Some of them didn’t even know we were here until they saw it in the paper.”

He said the city has been responsible.

“They know they have to weigh business concerns with residential concerns,” Bledsoe said. “One of the problems is there are no buffers between the industrial and residential zoning. That’s nobody’s fault. Zoning came in after everything was built.”

Still not cleaned up

By Alexis McDaniel
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Clean Metal plant operator seeking salvage yard permit

An East Fairmont metal recycling facility hasn’t cleaned up an outdoor stockpile of scrap material that nearby homeowners claim is generating too much dust.

Now Clean Metal is seeking a salvage yard permit from the city that will allow the material to be legally stored outdoors in the future.

The public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals is 7 p.m. April 4 at the city building.

City Planner Jay Rogers said Clean Metal Manager Barry Bledsoe applied for the salvage yard permit last week, after failing to meet several deadlines to have the stockpile moved indoors.

Clean Metal on Speedway is approved as an indoor recycling facility only and is in violation of city code, Rogers said. The plant, where scrap metal is sorted and cut into sections, has not been fined so far and the application will keep the plant operating during the appeals process.

“We were waiting on some information from the Department of Environmental Protection before we go any further with it,” Rogers said.

City and state officials have received several complaints from people who live in the neighborhood that since the plant began storing and moving metal outside, a dark coating of dust has blanketed houses.

Rogers said the DEP has frequently tested the plant to make sure the dust isn’t dangerous. Some tests are still pending, he said.

Rogers and Bledsoe said the DEP’s initial tests for air quality have not found any violations.

“They haven’t found anything to cite us for,” Bledsoe said.

In a Times West Virginian article in December, Bledsoe said Clean Metal did not intend to seek a salvage yard permit, but would move all materials inside instead.

However, on Tuesday he said he’s changed his mind.

Salvage yards are permitted in Industrial C zone, the least restrictive zone in the city code.

“One of the big problems is that we are in an Industrial C zone, which is designed for what we do. But we live right beside a residential zone and there’s no buffer,” Bledsoe said. “We don’t operate a stereotypical salvage yard. We don’t accept cars and appliances. Because we still have this material on the ground, they want us to be in compliance.”

Rogers acknowledged that Clean Metal can restrict the facility as a salvage yard and not accept materials from the general public.

He also said residents will have the chance to dispute the salvage yard permit during the hearing.

Plant owners will have to notify all homeowners within 100 feet about the date of the hearing, Rogers said. It will also be advertised in the newspaper.

If the permit is not approved because of public outcry, then the plant operators could appeal the decision to the circuit court, based on procedural errors.

“All we want to do is to continue operation as we are now. Once the raw material is gone, it’s gone for good. We have been taking more material away every week since last spring,” Bledsoe said. “We had over 4,000 tons and now we’re down to 200 tons.”

Dust from plant ‘intolerable’

By Alexis McDaniel
Sunday, December 09, 2001

City, Clean Metal: Problem should be solved soon

Al Tornabene swiped his outdoor grill with a white “baby wipe” and examined the grime with dismay. He claimed his Morgantown Avenue home has been coated with the stuff for months, since Clean Metal set up a metal recycling facility behind his house.

He won’t let his grandchildren play on his back porch anymore. He’s donned a face mask to cut his lawn. One night, the dust swirled like fog in his headlights, he said.

“I like to see jobs in the area, but they can’t pollute the neighborhood,” Tornabene said.

Tornabene started complaining about the dust, which is generated as a stockpile of material outside of the plant is loaded and unloaded, to city officials and the plant manager last April.

They were cooperative, but it’s taking too long to get the stockpile removed to indoors, he said.

“I need help,” he said. “This is intolerable.”

Tornabene isn’t the only resident complaining about Clean Metal, said Fairmont City Planner Jay Rogers. A few others have asked the city to stop the dust, noise or tone down the lights.

The city cited Clean Metal this summer for violating the zoning code for stockpiling metal outside, something that’s only permitted by salvage yards, Rogers said.

Rogers said because Clean Metal has made progress, the city extended the original July deadline for compliance to this fall, he said. If the stockpile isn’t moved indoors soon, operators are going to have to get a special salvage yard business permit and meet with the zoning board at a public hearing.

That’s not something Clean Metal Manager Barry Bledsoe wants to do.

“We aren’t a salvage yard,” he said. “We should have that stockpile gone in just a few weeks.”

Bledsoe said unfortunate circumstances caused startup problems for the new business, which is owned by an Elkins businessman.

Clean Metal opened in September 2000. The plant’s employees take waste metal from Philadelphia, sort and size it. It’s sold to steel mills that melt it for new products. Clean Metal’s new processing equipment didn’t work quite right, Bledsoe said.

“We limped along for several months and we got material faster than it could be processed,” he said. That created a stockpile of material. There was no room inside, he said, so it was temporarily dumped in piles outdoors.

“All of our processing is supposed to be under roof,” but it isn’t yet, Bledsoe said.

The stockpile, as it’s being moved around, is generating the dust, agreed both Rogers and Bledsoe.

Bledsoe said he’s sympathetic to neighbors’ concerns and has offered to pressure wash a few houses next to the plant. Bledsoe has taken other measures to deal with dust, including the purchase of a street sweeper. It was also broken this fall and is back in service now, he said.

Government environmental agencies monitor water and residue for pollution, Bledsoe said. The Department of Environmental Protection has tested dust samples from two homes, including Tornabene’s, and compared them to Clean Metal materials.

The test showed little impact on one Speedway residence, but were inclusive for Tornabene’s Morgantown Avenue home. A second test is under way now for more accurate results, he said. “We think they probably do have some nuisance dust,” Bledsoe said.

Rogers said that other than the stockpile, all of Clean Metal’s operations are legal for its location.

Still, it’s difficult to balance the rights of residents and industrial plant operators who are neighbors in today’s society, Rogers said. Decades ago, people lived close to their jobs and it was a convenience.

Clean Metal is on a level (c) industrial zone, the least restrictive in the city, Rogers said. It’s been that way since the inception of the zoning code in 1959. It’s an area of big businesses, such as an aluminum plant, truck company and tire retailer, bumped up to houses.

“There’s no buffer zone. That’s the reason why we try to do everything that we can do to be good neighbors,” Bledsoe said. “We’re really trying to meet these goals. … Once (the stockpile) is gone, it will never come back.”

Last modified: 12 August 2003