Upcoming Virtual Hearing in Response to MAX Environmental’s History of Violations

On Tuesday, November 10 at 7pm EST, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting a virtual hearing on their proposed Corrective Action Permit for MAX Environmental Technologies in Yukon, PA.

MAX Environmental in Yukon is the only RCRA Subtitle C Hazardous Waste Facility in the state, and the facility is subject to EPA Corrective Action requirements for investigation and remediation of past chemical releases. The hearing will include a history of the facility, summary of its environmental impacts, a summary of the EPA’s proposed remedy, and an open session of public comment. 

MAX Environmental’s Yukon facility

If you or someone you know has experienced illness, environmental pollution, or disruption to quality of life as a result of operations at MAX Environmental, we encourage you to both provide public comment and attend the virtual meeting. Additional information regarding the Corrective Action Plan can be found here

How to Provide Public Comment: 

  • All comments must be submitted in writing to EPA Project Manager: Griff Miller (Miller.Griff@epa.gov) and must be received prior to 11/19/2020.

To Join the Public Hearing on November 10 at 7pm EST (no pre-registration required): 

  • Online Teleconference through Microsoft Teams or Phone. The Public may join the meeting by either the following link or phone: Internet Conference Link : Join Microsoft Teams Meeting OR Phone Number: 1 (484) 352-3221 (Conference ID : 211 706 779#)

The Corrective Action Permit comes after a longstanding history of violations at MAX Environmental’s Yukon location.  For example, from January 2007 to August 2019, MAX’s discharge into Sewickley Creek spent 1,846 days out of compliance with their National Pollution Elimination Discharge System (NPDES) permit.  In June 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) inspected the MAX Environmental Technologies site and found several instances where Max failed to comply with their permits. The DEP issued a violation that cited: failure to monitor pollutants, failure to properly operate and maintain all facilities, and failure to take necessary measures to prevent pollutants from reaching waters of the Commonwealth, a violation of the Clean Streams Law. 

Some of Max’s more recent violations have come as a result of complaints filed by residents, as well as from our own Youghiogheny Riverkeeper.  The Riverkeeper observed foaming, yellow water from one of MAX’s outflows that discharges directly into Sewickley Creek and took samples. Twice, the results of this sampling indicated a number of concerning pollutants, including very high levels of arsenic and strontium.  Arsenic was found at levels up to 2.9 mg/l, which is nearly 300 times EPA’s Drinking Water Standards of .01 mg/l, and strontium was found at levels up to 25.8 mg/l, which is more than 6 times EPA standards of 4 mg/l. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen and immediate symptoms from exposure can include a sore throat and irritated lungs. Excess levels of strontium have been linked to leukemia and bone cancers.

When conducting their investigation in response to MWA’s and residents’ complaints, DEP found that MAX had misrepresented the locations of some on-site outfalls on official maps, which could distort sampling results. They also sampled a culvert near MAX that indicated that the following contaminants were detected above EPA Drinking Water Standards: barium, manganese, nitrate, and flouride. While stream water quality doesn’t necessarily have to be at drinking water standards, drinking water limits are in place because it has been found that consuming water that exceeded the contaminant limits would likely be harmful for humans.  If the standard is considered poisonous or hazardous to humans, one can only imagine the impacts on tiny, delicate aquatic life and stream ecosystems. 

Sewickley Creek is a popular waterway for fishing and paddle sports; it is also a tributary to the Youghiogheny River with the confluence located near West Newton. This obvious and ongoing pollution is not only a major threat to the environment, water, and wildlife, but also a major concern for its impact on human health and quality of life. 

Such hazards pile on strain to a Yukon already affected greatly by the landfill. Since its 1980’s inception, MAX has expanded to 160 acres, looming in comparison to the residential and agricultural properties nearby. As a RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste facility, it accepts hazardous waste ranging from electric arc furnace dust to radioactive fracking waste — the latter of which is linked to health problems not yet fully understood. Even now, MAX seeks to grow, pursuing its seventh landfill in the area. The concern that Yukon residents have about their water, air, health, and properties should be at the forefront of conversations about the repeated violations and potential sprawl of MAX disposal locations. 

For several years Mountain Watershed Association (MWA) has conducted research and monitored records of inspections and violations at MAX through updates provided by the DEP, EPA, and concerned Yukon community members. In addition to monitoring waterways, we have supported air quality monitoring at nearby private residences, which is being conducted with the help of Southwest PA Environmental Health Project, through the installation of Purple Air monitors. These monitors have reported five days of hazardous air quality within the past month. As mentioned above, the operation and maintenance of this toxic waste site has far too often been in violation of their issued permits. In addition to monitoring and community support we are working to encourage additional air monitoring by multiple sources.  We hope increased monitoring will encourage  accountability at the facility and offer some semblance of peace of mind for the concerned Yukon community members. 

If you have any questions, concerns, or complaints regarding MAX Environmental in Yukon, please contact Stacey at stacey@mtwatershed.com or 724-455-4200×9#.