Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Press Conference for Major Easton Polluter: Rockwood Pigments--Thursday, March 24

Rockwood Pigments at 1525 Wood Avenue, Easton, PA
(notice all the contaminated red dust and soil)

Posted by: Noël Jones

A press conference is being held by Clean Water Action tomorrow morning at 10am--below is the media advisory. I didn't even know about this plant, much less that it has been consistently polluting our waterways here in Easton--anyone unemployed, retired or freelance that can make this press conference tomorrow, please consider it:

Local Polluter Illustrates the Need for More Environmental Protection, Not Less 
Senate Appropriations Committee Hears DEP Budget Proposal in Harrisburg While Local Environmentalists Highlight Repeat Violator
Time: 10 a.m., Thursday, March 24th
Location: Rockwood Pigments, 1525 Wood AvenueEastonPA 18042, outside left delivery gates.
Last year, the Department of Environmental Protection’s inflation-adjusted budget fell to half what it was in the Ridge Administration, and Governor Corbett wants to cut it again. Clean Water Action will highlight a local repeat violator of environmental laws, spell out some of its infractions and the lack of enforcement actions taken.
Speakers:  Cathy Frankenberg, Clean Water Action; Dennis Lieb, former Minerals, Pigments, and Metals Division employee of Pfizer (previous name of facility); Gene Lane, resident, and head of the Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee 
Clean Water Action has more than 120,000 members statewide in Pennsylvania and is the nation's largest grassroots group focused on water, energy and environmental health.  Clean Water Action's 1 million members participate in Clean Water Action's programs for clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution, and creation of environmentally-safe jobs and businesses. Clean Water Action's nonpartisan campaigns empower people to make democracy work.

Catherine Frankenberg
Program Organizer
Clean Water Action

901 North New Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 691-7395
(610) 691-7397 Fax


noel jones said...

I went to this plant and the gate was wide open so I wandered around looking for the press conference, and instead found myself lost on what could have been some aging colony on Mars--everything was coated in red dust (iron oxide, i'm told), the buildings, the equipment, the ground--even the ground water, large puddles and such, were a deep red color...i drove around trying to find my way back out the way i thought i came, and eventually stopped to look up and see a giant crane-sized backhoe overhead, chewing on heaps of scrap metal and got the hell out of there--it was freaky. more on this soon...

Anonymous said...

anyone who has lived in the city, especially the west ward is well aware of the plant. Air emissions have been cleared up significantly and I think most of the red is from decades ago when it was really bad. It is really much better now but DEP and the neighbors can't let up.

Untouched Takeaway said...

My SO was born/raised in the West Ward. He remembers his mother bemoaning the red dust that would settle on the wash pinned to the clotheslines outside.

When people would ask what that facility manufactured, people would simply answer "red".


noel jones said...

Anon 11:21--I beg to differ--I have lived in the West Ward for four years and this is the first time I have heard of Rockwood. On what are you basing your assessment that the plant has improved? They are repeat violators, and here is the link to the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History site, listing their violations over the past several years:

And yet you claim "but the DEP and the neighbors can't let up" as if residents are picking on the polluter. Why should anyone "let up" when a polluter keeps polluting with complete disregard for the residents of the community in which it operates?

We will have to disagree on this one--in my opinion, Americans do way to much "letting up" and trusting that someone else is going to fight their battles for them and protect them from things like drinking water contamination. There are plenty of good companies out there who know how to be a good neighbor, so there is no excuse for being a polluter year after year, or letting bad corporate neighbors off the hook.

Anonymous said...

please read my comment again....I said DEP and the neighbors can't let up. Sorry if you misinterpreted what I said but I would never suggest letting up on any polluter. We only have one environment.

some Dude said...

I have lived in the West Ward for four years and this is the first time I have heard of Rockwood.
have you never gone to the Mall? never taken Wood Ave to 25th St?
I've been here for more than 15 yrs and I remember seeing this plant when I first got here. I remember when it was Pfizer, then Elementis, now rockwood.
I've known some people that worked there or retired from there; hard work, but they pay pretty well.
yes, they make 'red'. red pigment from iron oxide. so anything you use or own that is red in color has red pigment in it, perhaps from this plant.

much of manufacturing is an ugly business, no getting around it. they are the last hold out from a time when ALL of the west ward (and west easton) were a blue collar town, where men walked to the plants nearby.
I would like to see if there have been significant fines levied here; the Buhkill is right there and yet fishermen contiue to fish there and the water appears clean. I live just six blocks from there and NEVER have had dust in my neighborhood.
the fact that you didn't even know they werre there shows how unobtrusive they are.
but I guess you wouldn't be true to your Liberal rabble-rousing self if you didn't look for an issue to blow out of proportion.

BullVon said...

FWIW, this is the same company once owned by Morris Williams, who had been a major contribution maker to Lafayette College, who donated the land and a little more to the Easton YMCA for the current Y's beautiful Lafayette Street campus, where there is still lots more room to expand.
At one time it was Phizer, General Piments, but always did the same products.
If you look close at the old curbimg, sidewalks, building walls, etc., everything is coated with layer of reddish dust.
There has to be some kind of interesting story there, eh?

noel jones said...

someDude--you almost made it through an entire comment with strong points before degenerating into conservative/liberal finger-pointing. soon you'll be able to make an entire argument based on solid points alone. the good points being that the plant provides jobs, that iron oxide is not as bad as, say, fracking fluid. that fishermen continue to fish there does not move me, as plenty of people fish in and drink from water sources that are contaminated around the country, either out of ignorance, or denial.

it's funny how some people love to try to peg me as Liberal, while liberal friends get upset with me for giving too much credence to Republican and libertarian arguments. just goes to show that you can never please everyone, and that being an independent thinker often means rubbing people the wrong way on all sides. still, i prefer it to being an automaton of group think, regurgitating "liberal" this and "conservative" that rather than really considering another's point of view. i tend to find that all sides have good points to make, as well as points that don't hold up at all.

anyhow, i have never understood why pollution should be seen as a liberal issue instead of a conservative issue--after all, the very word "conservation" comes from the root "conserve" which is also the root of "conservative". so i don't understand how conserving the environment or not wanting iron oxide ruining your property value, or not wanting carcinogens (fracking) in your water would be an issue relegated to the realm of "liberals."

in answer to your first question, no, i haven't driven to the mall that way--i take Northampton, but the route by the pigment plant is probably more direct with less lights and i will try it out. good thing i'm "liberal" enough to try something new if it might be a better way to go about it...

noel jones said...

Anon 4:43--gotcha--inference and emphasis are often tricky in print...yes, i agree, we can't let up if we want to protect our health, our property values, our democracy and our way of life. if The People don't fight for themselves, no one will, and the corporations that are bad neighbors (not those that are good neighbors) will continue to make their millions while they pollute our food, water and air with no regard to that fact that they are profiting while we get sick and die. period.

anyone who thinks polluters with recorded violations care about us enough to operate safely is living in fantasyland and prefers denial to dealing with reality. it's a strange--i don't get it.

Anonymous said...

I'm an old timer & years back, there was so much polution, you couldn't even see when walking through. Today, it is heaven compared to then 7 yet many old timers that worked there are still around.

What's all the fuss? Iron is natural; put in vitamins for health & cosmetics alike. Sure, it isn't pretty lying around, but it goes into everything you ingest & surround yourself with. this includes vitamins, cosmetics; from blush, foundations, eye pencils, & then traverses to paints of all colors in your homes. Why, it is even in frotified baby food, cereals as well as adults.

Funny, people will ingest this, but have a problem seeing it in it's natural state.

what about all the gas stations in the area 7 the toxins given off from the petroleum which have been proved to cause cancer? Does the EPA come in & put a surround on the filling hoses so no toxins are emitted into the air? No1 ARe these measured? No! Dangerous? Yes!

You ever walk into a hair salon? Sometimes the sprays, dyes, nail polishes, perm chemicals are so over whelming, I have to wait outside for my wife. does the EPA measure this; especially in a mall as JCP salon where you walk thru the store & are infiltrated with cancer causing chemicals. Andthe nail painting at the mall is so toxic the gals applying wear masks.

Wake up America! Quit bellyaching over one of the few last plants left in Easton that keep our locals employed. Pretty soon there will be no plants left, people will be forced to move elsewhere & who knows what will be built. It could be much, much worst.

And for the guy that was scared of the place, kids go in on tours & aren't scared. It is good to be exposed to what natural industry is & all the comes with it, for only then do you get a true understanding of just how hard these men work & the conditions (of not being modern) is they work under.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the latter fellow. Noel Jones sounds like that of a cry baby. If young kids tour parts of the plant & are okay, what's his problem?

Old timers lived for many years who worked at Rockwood when it was CK Williams,I believe. It never hurt them who worked in conditons whereupon you couldnt even see when walking.

Trouble with folks today like this Mr Jones is that they were brought up with white gloves on. Never seen anything other than a comfortable office with an air conditoner.

Maybe Mr Jones should tour a coal mining plant, a War battlefield, a plastic making company, a chemical factory like Baker, even a ceramic shop where the fumes are so potent you can't really breathe.

You know, Billy Joel's song about Allentown, closing all the factories down? People like this guy are what the sadness in Mr Joel's song is about.

I say stop the bellyaching or something worst could come, causing traffic problems, noise or attracting rough housers. Here you know what you have. Hard working , bright young & older men that work hard everyday to put a roof over their wive's &children's head, don't make noise, park quietly in a designated area & then go home quietly.

I would deem that polluting is coming from elsewhere....

Anonymous said...

My name's Rocky & I second those two last motions. My grandpa knew of CK Williams & said those were the days you couldn't even see walking through, yet the workers lived to a ripe old age. Maybe that iron kept them going!

Today, it is cleaned up pretty good & there's still the gripers. And my opinion's the same about the EPA. They need to go into these malls with toxic perm, dye & hair chemicals & do something about that.

And did you ever notice when you go into a supermarket these ladies spray pure ammonia all over the counter & right into your breathing space? Does anyone say anything about something as toxic as ammonia being sprayed on food areas & where you stand & breathe?

The wife & I were at a dining place & just got our platter. The waitress comes to the table attached to us & starts dousing the ammonia, which drifted into our food, air.breathing.

So, enough already with something organic that is good for the blood, cures anemia & is given to help cancer patients thrive when there platelets or blod count is down.

If "Mr Jones" wants to complain, let it be about a harmful chemical in the air as previously mentioned. This meaning petroleum, nail polish, hair dye chemicals, ammonia & much much more, all of which are extremely carcinogenic.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering-

If Noel Jones has had the radon levels checked in his home? And, does he drive a hybrid? Use recycled paper products, sheets? And has he gone completely green?

Does he refrain from sprays of any sort in his home, which escapes into the air & depletes the ozones layers gradually.

Does he use natural whiteners & dish soap or does he use bleach? And what about a kerosene heater or coal stove? Any?

Spray pesticides in/ around his home or does this environment concerned person use only organic sprays such as peppermint oil?

If his answers are mostly no, which I strongly suspect, then he is more of a polluter than Rockwood.

Problem is, EPA doesn't measure household toxins, which are enclosed for the most part. And many in a rather small area with buildup, then escape into the outside air.

And yes, it is Rockwood. CK Williams, Pfizer, Harcros, Elementis, Rockwood; if I have it correct.

noel jones said...

The last four Anons sound suspiciously like the same person, who is clearly someone who making all kinds of accusations and insults when he doesn't know anything about the person he's insulting.

For the record:
1. I am a woman
2. I did not grow up with "white gloves" on, and if working in the fields, in a fish freezing plant, as a maid, as a waitress, and as a teacher in an inner city high school in New York as well on Rikers Island isn't tough enough for you, then I am bound to disappoint.

I would like to encourage everyone again to please stick to what you know, and to count on the strength of your points, rather than resorting to personal insult to make your arguments. You are in danger of making an ass of yourself otherwise (which is why people often chicken out and post anonymously).

As for Anons points, he has a couple of good ones. The fumes in some nail salons are out of hand, and I too hate it when waiters wash nearby table with toxic stuff so that everyone has to smell and breath it.

As for the chemistry lesson, iron and iron oxide are not the same thing. Here is a link that explains the health risks of ingesting iron oxide (or "ferric oxide"):

Again, not as bad as fracking fluid, but still not something anyone should want to breathe or swallow.

Besides, I think the main health concern is not about the red stuff, but rather the "pickling" solution that gets the rust off the scrap metal in the first place, and then gets dumped on the riverbank and into tributaries to the Delaware. More on this soon...

Tim Pickel said...


If my opinion counts towards anything, I can say with certainty that the company, know by many names over the years, has cleaned their act up tremendously. That is not to say that they are not currently polluting the environment, but if so, it is far less than years ago.

I have lived in my home for 35 years now, only a few blocks from the plant. When I first moved here, the "red" was everywhere. You saw it on your outdoor chairs, the windowsills, and the windows themselves. It was pretty bad. These day though, the red is not there and it hasn't been for quite some time.

A few years back the EPA was monitoring the Bushkill for pollution from the plant and I think they were in compliance. Does any one know of the results of the monitoring?

I can say with assurance that the visible pollution (red) has improved to almost nothing in the years I have lived here. I can't say that the pollution is all-together gone.

noel jones said...

Thanks, Tim--that is good to hear, and we seem to be hearing the same thing from other residents in the area. Do you know who conducted those tests? I wonder if it was an agency other than the one from link I posted above that lists their violations over recent years.

I think you've hit it on the head--they seem to be better than they were before, but still polluting to a lesser degree.

Our waterways are under many threats that seem more grave, more urgent--aside from fracking fluid from natural gas drilling, there is also the issue of endocrine disruptors being dumped from hospitals, but fracking is the greatest threat.

Since you specialize in installing clean water systems in third world countries, I know that we agree that access to clean drinking water is critical to all of us and becoming scarcer all the time. We all need clean water to drink in our homes, regardless of political affiliation, and the second we stop having access to that is the second America starts its truest decline as a nation...if we keep making excuses for polluters, it won't be long...we have to all get over ourselves enough to work together to fight for our way of life, and a major part of our way of life is being able to drink clean water for free in our homes instead of having to buy hundreds of dollars worth of bottled water to drink, bathe in, wash with and cook with. The biggest threat to our way of life at the moment is not this pigment plant, but fracking for natural gas in PA.

Mets said...

So there is a very good motive corporations have to ruin our water. They then get to sell water to us. Wish our PA gov could at least make companies sign a waiver saying that if they break they own it and have to get us water for free.

noel jones said...

Mets--I've often wondered about this myself. I know that if I were a natural gas tycoon, I'd be heavily invested in bottled water, knowing that I'm ruining the drinking water source for thousands, if not millions of people.

Anonymous said...

Water, like air and the internet, is a commons. (they belong to everyone) Privatizing it goes against natural rights. Destroying water tables in the Easton area is a crime. Corporations may provide jobs (more overseas than in the USA now), but people should not fool themselves in allying with -or defending- the corporate elites as they create ruins in their wake. Corporate elite don't care about the havoc they wreak. They care, unilaterally, about their bottom line and increasing profits quarterly for their shareholders; all measures will and are taken to ensure that happens. Profit is the one-dimensional shared corporate charter.

People need jobs, true. People need to provide for their families, true. People should also be holding corporations, who care not a wit for the destruction they leave, responsible. If your son or daughter poisoned the local well, you can be sure they, and likely your whole family, would be held responsible. And so should Rockwood Pigments.