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Land Revitalization Spring '08 Newsletter – High and Dry – Raising Land for Riverfront Redevelopment

What do Hollywood, the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, RCRA Corrective Action, William Penn’s home in the new world and brownfields have in common with the brown patch of land seen just before landing at the Philadelphia International Airport?

They all play into a major redevelopment planned for a portion of the Rohm and Haas plant in Bristol, Pa. known as Maple Beach.  The Bucks County Redevelopment Authority (BCRA) is coordinating efforts between Rohm and Haas, the regulators (EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) and the community to parcel off the Maple Beach section of the facility for commercial redevelopment.  A motion picture studio, along with other end users, have expressed interest in locating on Maple Beach. 

History of the Maple Beach Area

In 1683 William Penn established his home, Pennsbury Manor, as a beach head for his bold new vision of civilized living and land use in what is today Morrisville, Bucks County, Pa.  From his plan grew centuries of new ideas for commerce, development and land use.

In 1917, the Rohm and Haas Company constructed and expanded an 800-acre chemical plant in Bristol Township, a few miles from Pennsbury Manor.  As part of its expansion, it purchased the riverfront properties in a 300-acre residential area known as Maple Beach, which does not have a history of industrial use.

 As a result of its industrial activities, the Rohm and Haas facility is under a RCRA Corrective Action Order to cleanup a 60-acre landfill on the site.  The Maple Beach section is not subject to the cleanup order, but the groundwater beneath it is contaminated.  Rohm and Hass must address the Corrective Action Order so the Maple Beach section can be parceled out from the facility for redevelopment.

Filling the Land to Reduce Flooding Risk

Located on the Delaware River, another major concern at Maple Beach is the potential for flooding.  Maple Beach is protected by a decades-old earthen levee which was constructed to protect against the 100-year storm.  Over the past several years, the area has experienced a number of 100-year storms.  BCRA estimates it will need three million cubic yards of clean fill to raise Maple Beach to an acceptable level above the 100-year flood plane before redevelopment can occur.

            BCRA is exploring the use of dredge material from the Delaware River shipping channel or from the Fort Mifflin Confined Disposal Facility, near the Philadelphia Airport, as potential fill material at Maple Beach.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Fort Mifflin, supports the “beneficial use” of this clean dredge material for backfill.

            A rail transfer station has been built at Fort Mifflin specifically to transport dredge material for reuse.  A transfer pier located on the Delaware River near Bristol Township would facilitate barge transport of the dredge material to Maple Beach.  Each year, the USACE removes approximately three million cubic yards of material from the river bottom that has been deposited by the river from its upper reaches.  The disposal facility is nearly full.

            A sampling plan is being developed in cooperation with PA DEP to properly characterize the material in-situ in anticipation of the Army Corps maintenance work, once funding is available.  And, the redevelopment authority plans an outreach program to discuss this plan with the community.

Brownfields as a Coordination Tool

To bring all these pieces together, BCRA is using funds from both an EPA Brownfields Assessment grant and a Revolving Loan Fund grant to facilitate the preparation of Maple Beach for redevelopment as part of its Lower Bucks County Riverfront Plan.  Also part of the lower Bucks County Enterprise Zone, the plan envisions “a return to the Delaware River waterfront” and sees a vibrant and accessible waterway with new businesses and residential areas and facilities which encourage interaction with the area’s most valuable resource.

            “This project represents a rare opportunity for a cooperative venture on the part of community leaders, private enterprise, legislators, and federal and state regulatory agencies.  If completed as proposed in the Bucks County Waterfront Revitalization Plan- and coupled with green technology – Maple Beach is likely to become a landmark development and a model for other similar projects,” said Robert White, executive director of the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority.

Article contributed by
Jeff Barnett
 EPA Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program


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