Environmental Concerns at New Prison Site

SUNBURY -- Plans are moving forward to build a new prison in Northumberland County.

The former prison was gutted by fire in January.

However, there's a big issue the county has to deal with before it can break ground.

The Department of Environmental Protection says the land the county purchased less than a week ago has contaminated soil and needs more work done before prisoners can live there.

It's been about six months since this fire destroyed the Northumberland County Prison.
The county then decided to build a new $35 million prison just a mile away from the old one.

It will be  at the former Knight-Celotex manufacturing site.

"It's better than the penalties or whatever they are paying now to send the prisoners to the other facilities," said Beau Tabay of Sunbury.

With the old prison destroyed the county will pay about $6 million to house their inmates in other prisons throughout the state until the new prison can be built here.
There will be some more hurdles to getting that done.

Before the county can break ground and build a news prison here, the land has to be remediated.

There are about a half dozen contaminants in the ground, making it unfit for prisoners or anyone to live here.

"It is a blessing in disguise. It really is. Even though the county jail we have is a historical site. It going to cost to much to maintain it," said Dave Whiple of Sunbury.

Residents like Whiple don't mind that the new prison will be built near their homes, or the  $200,000-$300,000 price tag that's needed to clean up the land.

"We think it's a good idea because it will clean up the neighborhood as far as the pollutants that are on that ground," said Whiple.

"As long as they clean up the contaminated soil and make it healthier for us. I'm 100% or it! If it isn't safe for the prisoners it isn't safe for the community," said Cora Campbell of Sunbury.

The Northumberland County commissioners say clean up on the new prison site should start in August.

They did not have a time frame for how long it could take to bring the site up to DEP standards for a residential property.

The county hopes to break ground on the new prison by November, but there's no word on if the remediation of the land will affect that timeline.


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