More than 75 people attended a public hearing on Monday night on a plan to build a 702,000-square-foot warehouse in Pocono Township. Photo by Meg McGuire
More than 75 people attended a public hearing on Monday night on a plan to build a 702,000-square-foot warehouse in Pocono Township. Photo by Meg McGuire

Proposed Poconos warehouse draws fire at public hearing over potential harm to waterways

| March 5, 2024

A proposal to build a 702,000-square-foot warehouse in the Poconos in Pennsylvania came under scrutiny — and criticism — at a public hearing Monday night as residents questioned how the project would affect specially designated waterways and the quality of life for those in the community.

“Now what they’re going to do is destroy my American dream by building a warehouse,” said Rebecca Smith, who lives on Kevin’s Lane across from the site of the proposed warehouse on Warner Road in Pocono Township.

“It’s going to cost us the quality of our life,” Smith testified at the hearing.

In addition to the warehouse, the project sponsor, Core5 Industrial Partners, plans to build parking lots, truck loading docks, trailer parking areas, access drives and stormwater basins, according to its application.

Worries about harming Pocono Creek

What drew a crowd of more than 75 people to the hearing, which was held by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, was Core5’s permit application to discharge stormwater during construction into Pocono Creek, which meets one of the state’s top classifications as a high quality stream, and into wetlands classified as exceptional value.

Of 86,000 miles of streams in Pennsylvania, only 2 percent are clean enough to earn the top designation as exceptional value, many of which are tributaries to the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers.

Of the specially protected waterways, 80 percent are concentrated in the Poconos, according to a 2022 report prepared for Our Pocono Waters, a clean-water advocacy group, in conjunction with PennFuture.

Read more: Proposed Poconos warehouses would harm quality of life and waters, opponents warn

Core5’s proposal comes amid a proliferation of warehouses throughout the Delaware River watershed, including in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, as a mammoth industrial park is planned near the Delaware River in the Slate Belt, and as 88 million square feet of warehouse space are planned in the watershed in New Jersey.

Speakers on Monday repeatedly raised concerns about the project’s impervious surfaces — the hard, manmade surfaces like roofs, the building footprint and paved parking lot — and how that could funnel contaminants into Pocono Creek.

Grease, oil, salt used for snow and ice control and flecks from rubber tires could end up in the stormwater runoff and harm the creek and wetlands surrounding the 73-acre project site.

“The water has to go somewhere,” Smith noted.

Concerns about quality of life

Other speakers called on the DEP to consider the cumulative impacts of warehouses and distribution centers in the Poconos. Such developments stand in stark contrast to the promotion of the region as a tourist destination touted for its outdoor recreation and clean environment, they said.

In an interview during a break in the proceedings, Smith questioned how the project would affect her septic, her well and the quality of life for her and her neighbors. What impacts will the warehouse, with its noise, traffic and emissions, have on the habitat around her, she asked.

Smith, who has been a homeowner for 20 years, said she has Indiana bats that roost in the trees in her backyard.

“I get to sit in my backyard at 5 o’clock and watch them fly,” she said, adding she worried what will become of them if their habitat is disturbed when the trees are felled.

Lisa Buchholz of Pocono Regional Citizens Group, an activist group opposed to the warehouse, cited what she said were flaws in the permit application and called on regulators to uphold protections as called for in state laws.

“We are too advanced not only to know better, but to do better,” she testified at the hearing, which was held at Pocono Mountain School District’s Swiftwater Elementary School.

In an email calling attention to the project, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said: “What is currently present on this site? This beautiful patch of green is currently 75 percent forest with predominantly mature native tree and shrub species that provide critical buffering, water quality protection and stormwater infiltration, climate change sequestration, and air quality benefits from pollution by nearby busy I-80, just to name a few of the ecological services this forest provides.”

Faith Zerbe, water watch director for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, testified that the development of the site could lead to sediment getting into Pocono Creek, which could choke off fish and amphibian wildlife and reduce the levels of dissolved oxygen.

She said generations have worked to preserve and protect the integrity of the waterway, adding, “This is an inappropriate site for a warehouse.”

The DEP deemed Core’s application complete on August 11, 2023. It will now review the comments received at the public hearing.

Chris Mele

Chris Mele

Chris Mele is a reporter and editor with more than 30 years of experience in news, specializing in investigative and enterprise reporting.

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