Lawmakers call out Exelon for the timing of its refueling project in Montco

EAGLEVILLE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Montgomery County officials continue to voice concerns over a Limerick nuclear generating station, which they say is violating coronavirus safety precautions and social-distancing guidelines.

Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh said Exelon, the parent company of the nuclear station, brought in 1,400 to 1,800 contractors to work on the refueling project.

She publicly called Exelon out during a Tuesday press briefing, saying she told the company not to go through with the project during the coronavirus crisis.

“I have an enormous amount of concern,” Arkoosh said. “As we pointed out to them from the beginning, they were coming into an area of community spread here in Montgomery County, bringing in people from all over the United States. I still do not know from which states they have come.”

She said county officials had a call with Exelon officials, along with members of Chester County’s government. Arkoosh listed four goals she wants Exelon to address: protecting residents of Montgomery and Chester counties, protecting already stretched first responders, protecting essential workers at the plant, and protecting the workers they brought in.

Exelon spokeswoman Liz Williamson said in a statement: “Individuals who have traveled to, from or through countries listed by the CDC Warning Level 3 and Level 2 areas were flagged for further pandemic screening prior to access authorization. Similarly, individuals from certain hot spot areas of NY, NJ and CT were either denied access or flagged for additional pandemic screening before being allowed to work here.”

The workers are residing in Airbnbs, private homes, hotels and campgrounds across the county.

“In a moment when we are asking people to stay at home, we have a lot of people who are not staying at home,” Arkoosh added.

While Arkoosh says they also have evidence social distancing and other protections are not being followed, Exelon said they have the proper precautions in place. The company also said the project was essential to keeping the plant up and running.

However, Arkoosh said she talked to PJM Interconnection, which runs the power grid in the region. PJM said that even if Limerick had to power down, there would have been no danger to the plant, nor any significant threat to the region’s power supply.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (4th District) and state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks, Chester, Montgomery) also called on Exelon to improve its safety protocols during the concurrent coronavirus crisis and refueling project.

“Exelon has provided an inadequate pandemic response plan, withheld information from county and state officials, and failed to prioritize the safety of its employees, contract workers, community first responders,” Muth said in a statement. “This is grossly irresponsible as Exelon has brought at least 1,400 workers to the epicenter of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 pandemic.”

She asked Exelon to provide a complete list of worker accommodations, create a 14-day quarantine protocol for workers that includes compensation, and to be transparent with area officials.  

Montgomery County now has 10 deaths connected to coronavirus — the latest include an 86-year-old woman from Plymouth and a 83-year-old man from Rockledge. There are at least 595 cases countywide.

As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, all Pennsylvanians are under a statewide stay-at-home order from Gov. Tom Wolf, until at least April 30.