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CONTACT: Russell Zerbo, Clean Air Council, rzerbo@cleanair.org 215-567-4004 ext. 130
Shawn Sheu, NKCDC, ssheu@nkcdc.org 215-427-0350 ext. 107

Port Richmond/Kensington Scrapyard Fire was a Preventable Air Pollution Disaster

Clean Air Council and New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) have been working with neighbors and community organizations, advocating for the City of Philadelphia to increase safety at the dangerous scrapyard located at 2200 E Somerset St.

With nearby residents, Clean Air Council's Russell Zerbo attended a May 24 hearing in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas where BMJ Holdings LP, the owner of 2200 E Somerset St, was given three months, with no fine, to comply with various egregious fire code violations, including not having a "hot work" permit, possessing unidentified containers of hazardous materials, possessing unsecured compressed gas containers, accumulation of material in a prohibited area, storage of combustible material exceeding fire code limitations, using extension cords as a substitute for permanent wiring, lacking one or more required portable fire extinguishers, possessing prohibited heating and cooking equipment, possessing open junction boxes, possessing an improperly labeled oil storage container, and possessing waste tire piles that were both too large and too close to structures.

Resident and longtime opponent of 2200 E Somerset, Genevieve Geer, said, "This is the very unsurprising outcome of a series of nonchalant decisions by city officials to ignore the environmental health of Kensington because of its socio-economic situation, and the fact its voting base isn't particularly strong. The residents surrounding the scrapyard were simply expendable."

NKCDC has been working with Geer and other community members to address health and safety issues caused by noncompliant area scrapyards since 2013. By encouraging neighbors to report violations, advocating with the City for improved regulation, and acting as a liaison for neighborhood concerns, NKCDC hoped to give scrapyard operators the tools they needed to be better neighbors and act as responsible community members.

"All we ask is for this collection of adjacent scrapyards to obey the law, which has been willfully ignored for years," Andrew Goodman, NKCDC's Director of Community Engagement, said. "This is a terrifying example of what can go wrong on a site that isn't properly monitored and maintained."

The fire's air emissions were picked up on Clean Air Council's air monitoring devices in the area. Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) exposure may cause health effects including breathing difficulty and increased risk of heart and lung disease. "Clean Air Council is using these monitors to track activity at scrap yards, educate the public, and hold scrapyards accountable," said Karl Koerner, engineering/technical coordinator at Clean Air Council. Hourly concentrations of fine particulate matter rose from 20 ug/m^3 to a peak of 773 ug/m^3, bringing the 24 hour average well above the federal standard of 35 ug/m^3.


The Clean Air Council is a member- supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council is headquartered in Philadelphia and works through public education, community organizing, advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visitwww.cleanair.org.

New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) strengthens the physical, social, and economic fabric of Kensington, Port Richmond and Fishtown by being a catalyst for sustainable development and community building. NKCDC is part of the NeighborWorks network, an affiliation of more than 240 nonprofit organizations located in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The NeighborWorks network was founded and is supported by NeighborWorks America, which creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives, and strengthen their communities. For more information, visit nkcdc.org.

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New Kensington Community Development Corporation
2515 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
P: (215) 427-0350  |  F: (215) 427-1302  |  info@nkcdc.org
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