KYW: Montco officials call out Exelon for continuing project, not social-distancing

KYW: Montco officials call out Exelon for continuing project, not social-distancing

Jim Melwert

March 31, 2020

EAGLEVILLE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Montgomery County officials publicly called out the company behind the Limerick nuclear generating station over concerns that the company went forward with a refueling project and ignored precautions to protect their workers and the community from coronavirus.

Montco Commissioner Val Arkoosh said when the county learned about Exelon’s project at the last minute — which included bringing in 1,800 workers — they asked them to postpone it.

“We asked to see Exelon’s pandemic response site plan. After several conversations with Exelon executives and others, we concluded the plan was not adequate for the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

However, Arkoosh said the company refused, but it did commit to measures like social distancing at the work site.

“Today, our Department of Public Safety received notice that adherence to social distancing measures may not be occurring at the work site,” she said.

With the refueling underway, Arkoosh said Exelon has a responsibility to explain to the public what safety precautions are in place, as well as “the steps that Exelon is taking to protect the employees in the plant, first responders, residents in our community, and the workers brought into the plant for the refueling.”

An Exelon spokeswoman said the refueling is critical. Meanwhile, she said the company has strict procedures in place, like taking the temperatures of workers, requiring social distancing, pressing for frequent handwashing, and allowing remote work when possible.

Arkoosh is pushing so hard for social distancing and stay-at-home orders because the county expects coronavirus cases to peak in a couple weeks.

On Tuesday, she announced two more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the county total to eight. Total positive cases in the county rose to more than 560, including its youngest known patient, a 2-month-old.

Plans are in the works for surge capacity at county hospitals, but Arkoosh couldn’t say anything else until they’re finalized.

Montgomery County is also part of the effort at the Glen Mills Schools in Delaware County to create surge capacity.

As far as personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks and gowns, she said they understand the struggles health care workers and first responders are dealing with.

“We have been doing everything we could to get more PPE into our region. Like everybody else literally in the world, we are competing to get PPE,” she said.

Montco officials urge hospital workers and first responders to follow CDC guidelines, while they ask everyone else to follow stay-at-home orders to try to not overwhelm the health care system.

Due to the lack of supplies and staff, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently asked medical workers in the region to come to New York to volunteer. But since Pennsylvania hasn’t seen a peak yet in the southeastern part of the state, Arkoosh would prefer volunteers stay put.

“If you can hear my voice and you live in Pennsylvania, I’m asking you to stay here in Pennsylvania, because we might need you,” she said. “So please, do not go to New York.”

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