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Some Pa. Goodwill stores will now recycle electronic waste for free

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Some Pa. Goodwill stores will now recycle electronic waste for free


Gackenbach said partnering with Reworld solves that problem.

“Giving us a partner where they can take the volume that we have without having to go … load by load and thinking through how we’re gonna recycle each … load or each pallet is really a game changer for us.”

He said there is a lot of demand for a program like this: shortly after they announced this partnership, the Goodwill stores around Harrisburg have already collected many pallets of old TVs. Stores will have new signs explaining what they can and cannot accept. For instance, they cannot accept refrigerators or washing machines.

Reworld will now recycle whatever electronics Goodwill cannot sell. (Courtesy of Reworld)
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Last year, Goodwill Keystone Area shipped more than 110,000 pounds of electronic waste to be recycled, according to Gackenbach.

Reworld already runs an electronic waste recycling site in Philadelphia. The site takes out batteries and ink or toner, then shreds the rest of the old electronics, explained Gordon Burgoyne, business manager for electronics recycling. He added that magnets and other methods are used to separate different metals and plastics, and the materials can be used for new products.

He said they pay for the recycling with the small amount of money they get from selling the recycled materials, which can vary depending on how much money those materials are worth on the market; and money from electronics manufacturers, which are required to cover the cost of recycling electronic waste under Pennsylvania law.

electronic waste
Reworld will now recycle whatever electronics Goodwill cannot sell. (Courtesy of Reworld)

The ultimate goal is to prevent illegal dumping of electronic waste in rural areas or farmland, said Robert Bylone Jr. president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Recycling Market Center, a nonprofit that works on recycling in Pennsylvania. The center connected Goodwill Keystone Area to Reworld. He said before this partnership, there were only nine sites that would take any electronic waste for free and without being limited to a particular county or community, whereas now there are 42 more.

Covanta rebranded as Reworld this April. Last year, the Philadelphia City Council held a hearing over the city’s use of a controversial incinerator that Covanta, now Reworld, operates in Chester County.

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Pennsylvania

Over 30 Pa. schools' drinking water have high levels of toxic ‘forever’ chemicals

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Over 30 Pa. schools' drinking water have high levels of toxic ‘forever’ chemicals


The district sent a letter to parents and staff as soon as high levels of PFAS were detected at Central Bucks East High School. The letter stated there was “no immediate threat,” according to the DEP, but that the school would provide bottled water and install a filtration system “out of an abundance of caution.”

A PFAS filter is installed at the cooler filling station inside Central Bucks High School East’s athletic training room. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Under-the-sink filtration systems were installed throughout the school within a week, reducing the chemicals to non-detectable levels, Spencer said. He said officials may decide to install a more costly building-wide filtration system at a later date after more testing.

Kevin Spencer posing for a photo
Kevin Spencer is the director of operations at the Central Bucks School District. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“We want to get ahead of it,” Spencer said. “There will be a cost. At the end of these four quarters … if one of our averages is higher than those MCLs, we’re going to have to come up with a longer-term solution.”

Central Bucks parent Jeffrey Shuck said he appreciated the school’s transparency, and the speed at which officials installed filtration systems.

“It looks like they’re taking it seriously going forward, which is what makes me happy,” he said.

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However, parent Chris Tomlinson said he believes the school downplayed the situation. He said though schools have followed DEP requirements, he’s appalled they only began monitoring for PFAS this year, considering the chemical’s vast reach.

“That is absolutely unacceptable. With the amount of money that is poured into the Central Bucks School District, water should be paramount — especially if you’re pulling it from a well,” Tomlinson said.

A filter on the sink in the school's kitchen
A PFAS filter on in the kitchen inside Central Bucks High School East. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Officials for the Central Bucks School District and the Coatesville Area School District said DEP advised them they need not notify staff and students about PFAS contamination until all tests throughout the year are complete. That’s partly because test results may change due to factors such as rainfall — in fact, a second test at Kings Highway resulted in slightly reduced levels, though still above the new federal regulations.

However, officials at both school districts said they disagreed with DEP’s advice to wait, and decided to notify parents and staff immediately.

Kings Highway Elementary School is currently researching a variety of filtration systems, said Catherine Van Vooren, superintendent for the Coatesville Area School District. She said she expects one to be installed by the end of August.

However, because the DEP said there’s no immediate health risk, tap water was not shut off. Bottled water has always been available as an option at the school, Van Vooren said.

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“It’s very important to us that our students and staff are drinking water that meets guidelines,” she said. “Science is always evolving, and we’re going to continue to do whatever we need to do to be in compliance with these changing guidelines.”

Van Vooren said though addressing PFAS is a significant undertaking, the district is prepared to take on the challenge.

“Anytime you have something that wasn’t budgeted, that’s always a concern for schools because you have specific monies that are budgeted in different departments,” she said.

“That said … we also have our reserve, because you just never know what’s going to happen. We’re going to need a whole school water filtration system, but it could also be something happens with a roof, or a natural disaster, or something of that sort. So, we are prepared to absorb this without it having a huge effect on our budgetary costs.”

There is no need to panic when water first tests positive for PFAS since the health effects associated with the chemicals appear to be chronic in nature, said Andy Yencha, a water resources educator at Penn State Extension at Penn State University. He said parents should ask the school what level of PFAS was detected in the water system.

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“If the levels of PFAS in the school’s water exceed the EPA’s more stringent levels then I believe the best course of action is … the child, or anyone at the school, should avoid the drinking water … until the PFAS levels are reduced to below the federal MCLs.”

In a statement, the Pennsylvania Department of Education said it’s working closely with schools that have identified PFAS in their water systems, and is providing support. Schools may also seek funding from the Public School Environmental Repairs Program to address PFAS. The $75 million grant program helps to fund environmental remediation at schools.

“The Shapiro administration is committed to ensuring that all students can learn in a safe, secure environment free from hazards and environmental toxins,” a spokesperson said in a statement.



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Why Bensalem Twp. is consolidating 6 volunteer fire companies under one entity

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Why Bensalem Twp. is consolidating 6 volunteer fire companies under one entity


BENSALEM TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) — After two years of planning, six independent volunteer fire companies in Bensalem Township are set to consolidate into one fire company.

“It will be one fire department, one set of standard operating procedures, one executive board and one leadership team,” said Public Safety Director Williams McVey.

Trevose, Cornwells, Eddington, Union, Newport and Nottingham fire stations will now be known as the singular Bensalem Volunteer Fire Department. New chiefs and administration officials were sworn in Monday night at a special meeting, where commissioners gave their unanimous approval.

Officials say consolidation was necessary for many reasons, chief among them — manpower.

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“The decline of personnel within each of our organizations has certainly been our biggest challenge to overcome,” said Andrew Hazlett, who is now president of the BVFD.

BVFD Deputy Fire Chief Ron Harris says the number of volunteers has dwindled locally and across the state. He said in the 1970s, Pennsylvania had more than 300,000 volunteer firefighters. Today that number is about 30,000.

“Failure to not consolidate would result in a catastrophic incident involving destruction of property, and at worst case, a loss of life,” McVey said.

McVey said volunteers will still work out of the existing buildings and, over time, new signage and branding will appear on trucks and buildings. Officials also believe response times will improve.

“They’ll be able to pull all those resources together to ensure that they can get fire trucks out with properly trained personnel in those trucks,” McVey said.

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Twenty-year-old Aiden Goodson joined the Trevose Volunteer Fire Department in Bensalem last year following in the footsteps of his uncle and grandfather. It’s a common story of volunteers at any one of the now formerly independent fire companies.

Goodson said many have pride in their service that spans generations to a particular fire company but have come together to better the township.

Even with this reorganization, Goodson says the mission remains the same.

“Nothing else is different about the guys coming to save you on your worst day. They’re all still eager to help with whatever they can, in the best way they can,” Goodson said.

The consolation is effective at 12 a.m. Tuesday.

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The status of Bensalem’s full-time, paid firefighters is not affected.

Copyright © 2024 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.



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Drug testing, Philly parks, and other opioid money decisions await final approval in Pennsylvania

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Drug testing, Philly parks, and other opioid money decisions await final approval in Pennsylvania


This story originally appeared on Spotlight PA.

County officials across Pennsylvania are waiting to hear if a state oversight board will approve how they decided to spend tens of millions of dollars from opioid settlements.

Money for county coroners, initiatives connected to district attorney offices, media campaigns, and $7.5 million to support residents of the Kensington area of Philadelphia are among the programs the powerful board declined to approve in May and instead chose to continue evaluating.

The Pennsylvania Opioid Misuse and Addiction Abatement Trust — which has the power to cut funding if it decides counties spent settlement money inappropriately — is expected to reconsider a range of programs at its next public meeting on June 20. Members of the oversight board have done much of their work in secret — over the objections of advocates focused on addiction issues and at least one of its own board members.

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But trust officials have publicly raised concerns about some programs, including Philadelphia’s use of $7.5 million for Kensington residents and an additional $3.5 million aimed at overdose prevention and “community healing.”

The chair of the trust, Tom VanKirk, said in May that members of the oversight board needed more information about Philadelphia’s programs.

“It is a significant sum of money, and we just have no details,” VanKirk said.

He said the trust heard money was going to “things that we have problems with,” and cited playgrounds as an example. “We are duty bound to dig much, much, much deeper into it,” VanKirk added.

The city has defended both programs and says it provided the trust with additional information about where the money is going and why it’s appropriate. The city “funded well supported and evidence‐informed prevention strategies that aim to reduce trauma experienced by Kensington residents,” spokesperson Sharon Gallagher told Spotlight PA.

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In order to receive the money, counties agreed to spend the funds in ways that are consistent with the settlement document Exhibit E, which includes a range of approved and recommended uses. Philadelphia argued for a broad interpretation of Exhibit E, saying that programs are not prohibited even if they “do not explicitly align” with what is stated as an allowable use.

Decisions the trust makes could have an influence for years to come as counties allocate settlement money. Overall, the state expects settlements and litigation with opioid companies will bring Pennsylvania more than $1 billion, most of which is going to counties.

The trust approved many programs last month, but records released by the group after the May meeting listed about 150 it was still considering. The trust is reviewing money that was either spent or committed by the end of 2023.

It’s possible that once members review additional information from the counties, the full board will approve many of those programs without much public discussion or explanation. The chair of the trust said he expected “the great bulk” of programs will ultimately be recommended for approval, and multiple county officials reached by Spotlight PA expressed confidence in their strategies.

But there could be more contention surrounding some issues, and the scrutiny highlights larger questions about the best way to respond to the epidemic. Here’s what to know and what to watch for ahead of the trust’s next public meeting.

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What happens to rejected plans?

The order creating the trust gives it the power to withhold future payments if it decides counties spent the money inappropriately.

Under the order, counties have up to three months “to cure the misspending,” or the trust can reduce or withhold payments going forward. The cut funding would be shifted to an account controlled by the legislature and governor. The order does not define what it means to “cure” misspending.

The trust in May rejected five programs as noncompliant, including nearly $1,900 for a Chester County initiative aimed at combating underage drinking and related problems.

The county had not spent that money yet, doesn’t plan to challenge the trust’s decision, and “will look to use other funding sources for this prevention program,” the county said in a statement provided by spokesperson Rebecca Brain.

The trust also rejected four programs in Lawrence County, including about $140,000 for a project of the district attorney’s office, $25,000 for the coroner’s office, and $17,500 for a local police department. The county reported it already spent the money for the four rejected programs. The trust did not publicly specify its objections to Lawrence County’s programs at the May meeting, although its guidance and some members have expressed general concerns related to policing and law enforcement.

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It’s not clear what the trust told Lawrence County to do next regarding the four programs deemed noncompliant. The trust’s chairperson declined to provide details, saying, “Communication or data specific to individual counties will not be disclosed.” A county official provided limited information to Spotlight PA in May, but indicated officials there planned to consider their options.

Some public education and media campaigns did not receive a final decision from the trust at the May public meeting, such as Northampton County’s use of about $235,000 for its “Fake is Real” fentanyl awareness campaign. Other similar programs still under consideration include: $300,000 in Allegheny County and $150,000 in Bucks County. Mercer County reported dedicating $80,000 to a media campaign project and spending nearly $79,000 on a separate anti-stigma advertisement project.

During a discussion about Allegheny County, VanKirk said members of the trust want to ensure this type of spending doesn’t “really benefit just the PR firm or the advertising firm that might have been engaged.”

Mark Bertolet, an Allegheny County spokesperson, told Spotlight PA the money there is being used for awareness and outreach, “which includes resources, campaign materials, Naloxone distribution information, and more.” Bucks and Mercer County officials also defended their programs in response to questions from Spotlight PA.

Exhibit E specifically lists funding media campaigns to prevent opioid misuse as one of the approved ways to spend the money. The trust has already approved some other counties’ awareness and prevention campaigns.

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