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DEP looking into odor complaints

Jenkins Township residents feel smell is coming from Acton Technologies plant.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating complaints from Jenkins Township residents who believe odors are wafting over their properties from the neighboring Acton Technologies plant.

“We had complaints from the residents and the township going back a couple of weeks at least, and we’ve done several inspections down there,” DEP spokesman Mark Carmon said. “We’re looking at it from a nuisance standpoint.”

The company, which treats the slippery materials known as fluoropolymers to make them able to bond to other materials, considers itself “a very green company” and denies it is the source of the odors, according to Chairman Kevin Nelson, but is offering its “full cooperation” in the investigation.

Fluoropolymers are among the “slipperiest stuff on the planet,” Nelson said, and are used in the manufacture of automobile engines, among other applications. Perhaps the best known brand name is Teflon, which is trademarked by DuPont.

There have been five inspections over the past month at the plant on Thompson Street in response to complaints, Carmon said, and the agency is developing a report on its findings that should be done within a week.

“It’s basically a qualitative” assessment, Carmon said, adding that the smell must go “beyond annoying. Does it prevent you from enjoying your property?”

Not only does township Supervisor Joe Zelonis believe that it does, he feels confident it’s “absolutely, without a doubt” coming from the plant. He said he took a tour of the plant two years ago, and the smell he experienced there is the same as the one residents are complaining about now. In fact, he said when he responded to residents’ complaints on Wednesday, “I came down the hill, and it hit me in the face. … It’s a nasty smell. It smells like mothballs.”

Residents have been suffering with the smell for about two years he said and on Wednesday, they had enough. “They’re all walking around with their shirts over their noses.”

Nelson isn’t so convinced – he says there is a junkyard across the street. “We have received in recent days, some complaints of some odors coming from somewhere. We don’t believe they’re coming from us,” he said. “You go into any facility … it has a unique smell. It’s not walking into a Colorado mountain field, but it’s nothing that’s either hazardous or odorous. … That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about.”

Zelonis said action needs to happen quickly. If DEP’s report isn’t effective, he said he plans to write a letter to the state representative and senator requesting relief.

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