MILTON — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is continuing to monitor a petroleum release from a Milton railcar manufacturer which closed its doors at the end of 2019.
Megan Lehman, DEP Environmental Community Relations specialist, said DEP’s Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields Program is currently involved with ACF Industries “due to a petroleum release from a storage tank onsite.
“Some floating product remains on the groundwater at the site, but does not appear to be mitigating,” Lehman said. “The floating product is being monitored quarterly and collected by absorbents.”
The DEP website lists inspections and violations which occurred at the ACF Industries facility on North Arch Street dating back to 1998.
Listed violations include: September 2000, mismanagement of hazardous waste, containers of hazardous waste not labeled accurately, improper containment and collection systems, wastes placed in containers or tanks not properly marked, containers not properly managed, failure to properly manage waste and no source reduction strategy, $9,000 in fines; November 2000, no source reduction strategy; July 2013, management of universal waste by small quantity handlers; and June 2014, improper management of hazardous waste.
On Nov. 8, The Standard-Journal first reported speaking to two ACF employees who said they received a letter stating the plant will be closing its doors on Dec. 31.
Officials from the ACF Industries plant in Milton and at the corporate headquarters in St. Charles, Mo., have not responded to The Standard-Journal’s multiple requests for comment since that time.
ACF had a major cutback in 2009, when the company laid off most of its then 300 workers in Milton.
Union officials confirmed in 2012 that an agreement had been reached for the plant to resume operations in 2013. ACF officials said at that time that over 300 employees would be called back to work at the facility.
Former Gov. Tom Corbett visited Milton in June 2013 to announce that ACF received $483,000 in state funding from the Governor’s Action Team. The funds were to be used for machinery and equipment purchases, as well as employee training.
Although the plant has apparently been shut down, brisk activity has been occurring there over the last several weeks, with multiple trucks spotted hauling material out of the facility.
A replica railcar which stood for decades along North Arch Street — at the entrance to ACF Industries — was removed in early March, but placed in the parking lot.
That railcar has since disappeared from visibility at the site.
George Venios, executive director of The Improved Milton Experience (TIME), said the organization approached ACF following the layoffs and asked that the railcar be given to the community.
“TIME will be coordinating the effort to retain it for the community, and verifying with ACF that it can stay in Milton,” Venios said, in March. “We are not committed to paying for it... We wanted to make sure it didn’t go to the scrap heap.”
Venios believed the railcar replica would being donated by ACF to the Milton community.
Recently, Venios said he has had no further communication with ACF regarding the railcar.
Borough officials have also reported having no communication with the facility regarding future plans for the property.
Both Mayor Ed Nelson and Borough Manager Jess Novinger said they have received no communications from ACF officials since the announcement of the layoffs.
During the Nov. 13 Milton Borough Council meeting, Nelson said he received a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification ACT (WARN) letter from ACF President and CEO Michael Farmakis.
Nelson said the letter served as notification that approximately 148 workers at ACF’s Milton facility will be permanently laid off.
Two days later, council President Jason Budman said he spoke via phone with Farmakis, who listed the cost of operating the Milton facility as a driving factor in the decision to lay off the employees.
Economic conditions were also listed as a driving factor, most notably a lack of orders for new railcars to be manufactured.
Tea Jay Aikey, president and CEO of the Central PA Chamber of Commerce, also said she has received no information regarding potential future plans for the site.