Montgomery County officials question social distancing at Limerick nuclear plant

LIMERICK TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- There's a major dispute brewing between Montgomery County and the Exelon Corporation, and it all has to do with the coronavirus and the Limerick nuclear power plant.

A parking lot has been designated for the new contractors that have been hired as the annual refuel of the reactor maintenance project is underway.

But according to Montgomery County there's a big problem.

Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, says back on March 16, Exelon, the company that runs the Limerick nuclear plant, gave them a lackluster social distancing plan.

She said, "We learned of plans to bring approximately 1,800 workers into our region from around the United States. We asked Exelon to postpone this refuel until a time when the disease burden from COVID-19 was lower."

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But Exelon has moved forward.

"Today our Department of Public Safety received notice that adherence to social distancing measures may not be occurring at the worksite," said Arkoosh.

Elexon says the project, officially called the, Spring Refueling Outage, must go on.

If not, they say they'll have to close, and that means millions lose power, including local hospitals.

But Exelon vows they're social distancing inside.

Exelon released this statement to Action News:

"Limerick's clean and reliable power is vital to the region's hospitals and health care facilities; federal, state and local response centers and over a million homes and essential businesses as they respond to the COVID -19 pandemic and the station's spring refueling outage is critical to ensuring that power will continue to be available to the region as the weather becomes warmer and electricity demand increases. We have strict procedures in place to keep the public, our employees and contractors safe during the outage, and we will continue to share updates with federal, state and county officials. As part of Limerick's comprehensive COVID-19 safety precautions, all workers must pass a symptom screening and body temperature check prior to entry every shift. We're also requiring social distancing, remote work where possible, frequent hand washing, and increased facility cleaning and disinfection."

The company says they're screening workers for symptoms before they can enter, which includes a temperature check.

They've also brought three nurses on-site and retained three local doctors to tend to any potential sick employees.

But according to Limerick Township Manager Dan Kerr, that hasn't been relayed to them.

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"Sometimes the communication with Exelon is not the best down to the local level," said Kerr.

He adds each year when the workers come in they stay in hotels, shop at grocery stores and use gas stations like everyone else.

He'd be lying if he said he wasn't worried.

"We don't know what goes on behind the walls once those workers enter the facility. If people aren't following the social distancing it could spread through the Township," Kerr said.

According to officials, the workers have been in the area for about a week.
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