USA – Phillipsburg residents challenge foundry on higher hazardous air pollutant caps

McWane Ductile-New Jersey on Wednesday night held a public information meeting as part of its application for a new state air permit with higher limits on certain hazardous air pollutant emissions.

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It was attended by more than two dozen Phillipsburg area residents, some of whom described smelling the smoke from the 183 Sitgreaves St. foundry’s stack at their homes.

“There are times when I get up in the morning, night, middle of the day when you start your shift, if the wind’s blowing my way, I get up and think my house is on fire,” said James Flynn, of Firth Street. “I go out and I’m, ‘Oh it’s just the foundry.’”

The residents challenged the company, formerly Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co., to take steps to lower emissions rather than seek the higher limits in a new Title V Air Operating Permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Public comment on the air permit modification and renewal, as well as the renewal of a stormwater permit that is not changing, will continue to be taken by email until 5 p.m. April 8 via After that, the NJDEP Office of Environmental Justice will consider the comments and McWane Ductile’s responses, finalize the draft air permit and submit it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a 45-day review before the air permit is approved. The current air permit approved by the state on Jan. 29, 2021, is set to expire Feb. 19, 2023. NJDEP review of the stormwater permit renewal has been ongoing since 2011 and is nearing completion, McWane Ductile said.

McWane Ductile is requesting the amendments to its air permit for increased pollutants from the baghouse filters on the foundry’s Cupola Furnace, Melt Center and Zinc Coating areas at the Phillipsburg plant. These pollutants include mercury, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, chromium, lead, manganese and combined hazardous metals. As part of the application, the company plans to invest $4 million to replace a casting machine and install a new cooling tower.

The proposed emission limits carry “no appreciable increase in potential risk to the surrounding community,” McWane Ductile said in a fact sheet distributed at Wednesday night’s meeting, citing an NJDEP Bureau of Evaluation and Planning facility-wide risk assessment from December: “The Bureau of Evaluation and Planning (BEP) Air Quality Evaluation Section has completed its risk assessment for McWane Ductile in Phillipsburg, Warren County. Air dispersion modeling and risk assessment shows that the emissions of all (hazardous air pollutants) from the facility will result in negligible cancer and non-cancer risks for all air toxics.”

Phillipsburg pipe maker seeks higher limits on air pollutants

McWane Ductile-New Jersey in seeking a new state air quality permit proposes to increase certain hazardous air pollutant emissions limits from the baghouse filters on the Cupola Furnace, Melt Center and Zinc Coating systems at its 183 Sitgreaves St. plant in Phillipsburg.

Phillipsburg pipe maker seeks higher limits on air pollutants

McWane Ductile-New Jersey in seeking a new state air quality permit proposes to increase certain hazardous air pollutant emissions limits from the baghouse filters on the Cupola Furnace, Melt Center and Zinc Coating systems at its 183 Sitgreaves St. plant in Phillipsburg.

Units are pounds per hour. * The current permit does not have a pounds per hour limit. ^ As a comparison, the proposed Cupola Baghouse cadmium emission rate is 0.0033 pounds per hour. The proposed Zinc Coater Baghouse cadmium emission rate, therefore, is approximately an order of magnitude below the Cupola Baghouse's emission rate.


Company representatives stressed that they’re not looking to increase production at the plant, which melts scrap metal to produce ductile cast iron pipe ranging in diameter from 3 to 24 inches and which is used to carry drinking water. The foundry, which has about 200 employees, operates 220 to 230 days a year, said Vice President/General Manager Keith Mallett. That breaks down to about 10 hours a day for four to six days a week, according to Steve Shambeda, the foundry’s environmental health and safety director.

“This is the busiest year we’ve had,” he said Wednesday night. “... The changes that we’re making, we don’t plan on increasing beyond what we are doing right now.”

Seen from the air on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, McWane Ductile-New Jersey at 183 Sitgreaves St. in Phillipsburg is looking for New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection approval to renew and modify its air permit, to allow increased emissions of certain hazardous pollutants. A public hearing was held Wednesday, March 9, 2022, at the Phillipsburg Free Public Library.

Shambeda sought to explain that even if the pollutant levels are raised, that doesn’t mean the foundry’s emissions will reach those limits. Rather, the company is looking for increased flexibility to account for “natural raw material variability” in the metals that the foundry melts.

“The material that’s coming to us is changing,” Mallett said. “We melt a lot of chopped-up cars and chopped-up buildings. That’s what we melt.”

“So that means the air I breathe on Firth Street is going to change,” replied Flynn, one of the residents on hand Wednesday.

Shambeda said that stack-testing at the foundry is conducted by a third-party company and monitored by the NJDEP based on higher-than-normal operations. At normal rates, the higher pollutant caps would not be necessary, he stressed, likening normal to 65 mph while the testing is done by pushing the foundry’s operations to 80 mph.

Mallett said the testing is done “at a worst-case scenario.”

“If we ran at the normal standard speed of 65 mph, which we run every day, we would have no problem and there would be no need to ask for emission limit changes,” Shambeda said. “The DEP in trying to make sure that we don’t emit a lot of pollutants asks us to run at 80 mph for the test, which is not a standard thing.”

The emissions passed every test last year, he said, “but we’re very close. ... It’s close enough that an excursion or a spike could happen depending on the scrap material.”

Carol A. Staten, who lives in nearby Bloomsbury, suggested McWane Ductile do a better job of analyzing the scrap metal that comes in before melting it down. Mallett responded that he’s unaware of equipment that can do that on a scale the company would need.

Carol A. Staten, of Bloomsbury, gestures while speaking to Steve Shambeda, in red, who is the environmental health and safety for McWane Ductile, and other representatives of the company during a meeting Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in the Phillipsburg Free Public Library concerning an application to increase the caps on hazardous air pollutants from the foundry in its New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Title V Air Operating Permit.

“If you’re spending all this money, you’re going in the wrong direction,” said Phillipsburg resident Patrick Petroll. “The air should be cleaner.”

Petroll read an account of the U.S. Department of Justice’s prosecution of environmental crimes by Atlantic States, the company’s name until 2015, that led to prison sentences for four managers and an $8 million fine.

“You guys have a really bad track record and it’s hard to trust you,” he said during the meeting hosted by the Phillipsburg Free Public Library in its “Community Room Furnished by Atlantic States.”

Sherry Hoffman spoke of toxic fumes that used to blow from the foundry into her Pursel Hill home in town, forcing her to close the windows.

“It was much worse many, many years ago,” she said. “We’ve lived here for 22 years. And it’s been better for the last maybe 10 years or so.”

Mallett explained that the current baghouse system designed to trap pollutants was installed in 2004 at a cost of $10 million, and speculated emissions at Hoffman’s home were worse under the old system. Shambeda said the new system cut actual emissions from the foundry’s stack by 90% to 99%.

Now, however, the company says it wants to be able to increase its Cupola Furnace baghouse air pollutants like arsenic by 100%, nickel by 400% and chromium by 900%. The proposed emission limits from the plant’s Zinc Coater baghouse would allow for corrosion-control coating of pipe to meet customer demands, while increasing that portion of the plant’s cadmium emissions by 2,127.3%, according to figures from the company. (McWane Ductile notes that as a comparison, the proposed Cupola Furnace baghouse cadmium emission limit is 0.0033 pounds per hour, up 57.14% from the current 0.0021 pounds per hour, while the proposed Zinc Coater baghouse cadmium emission limit of 0.00049 pounds per hour — up from 0.000022 pounds per hour — is much lower than the Cupola Furnace baghouse’s emission rate.)

Karen Kelly-Stratos, who lives on Sitgreaves Street and went from complaining about foundry emissions to serving as chairwoman of the McWane Ductile Community Advisory Panel, stressed the benefits the more than century-old company offers to the town. Residents have to understand this is a foundry, she said, but at the same time McWane Ductile has been very cognizant of neighbors and supportive of the community through donations and scholarships beyond the employment it offers.

“They’re one of the only businesses that’s going on in town,” she said. “We would like to preserve it.”

Said one resident, who didn’t provide his name before speaking: “We can’t go on the way we’re going on, sacrifices maybe have to be made. I know 200 people are working with your company and that’s great, they’re able to raise their families to support themselves, you’re helping to support the community. But as a number of people brought out, there would be nobody here at this meeting if you … were to go back the other way and restrict the amount of pollutants that you’re putting into the air.”

Phillipsburg Town Councilman Lee Clark attended the meeting, as did council President Harry Wyant Jr., with Mayor Todd Tersigni noting his and Councilman Keith Kennedy’s attendance. Clark works for the NJDEP as a Green Acres project manager.

“I’m not in favor of increasing the limits,” Clark said. “I know we’re saying that it’s still within state ranges of safety but I still have to talk to families every day who are concerned about this. Ever since they saw this come out on the news, their first line of thinking was, ‘What’s the safe level of arsenic to breathe in? What’s the safe level of zinc to breathe in? What’s the safe level of lead to breathe in?’ When I look into their eyes I can’t honestly answer the question because what’s a safe level of these toxic chemicals to breathe in? I just don’t see it.”

Several residents who spoke acknowledged the benefits McWane Ductile offers to the Phillipsburg area, including Flynn from Firth Street.

“Thank you for everything you do for the community, really,” he said. “It’s well appreciated — other than ...,” he paused, apparently alluding to the emissions. ”I understand,” Mallett replied. ”Other than,” Flynn repeated. ”And I’ll just say, we hear you. We hear you,” Mallett said.


Author:Kurt Bresswein may be reached at kbresswein(at)