Dietz & Watson future in Delanco unclear

Rich Brown, head of security at Dietz & Watson, patrols the fire-destroyed warehouse in Delanco on Friday. The future of the site is unclear.
Rich Brown, head of security at Dietz & Watson, patrols the fire-destroyed warehouse in Delanco on Friday. The future of the site is unclear. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 22, 2013

More than a month after a fire gutted its Burlington County meat warehouse, leaving a rancid smell hanging in the air, Dietz & Watson has hauled away up to 10 million pounds of meat and demolished most of the building.

The stench is virtually gone from the company site in Delanco Township, some residents in nearby Edgewater Park said, and an odor-neutralizing solution has spouted out of supply hoses and aerosol fogging nozzles around the clock.

"We're pleased and feel very good that those neighbors are breathing fresh air again," company spokesman Steve Aaron said last week.

But the the 74-year-old, family-owned business' future in Delanco appears unclear at this point.

"As our CEO Louis Eni has said many times publicly since the Labor Day fire, the company's preference would be to rebuild at the existing Delanco site," Aaron said. "However, until insurance companies have completed their investigations, it is premature to make any announcements about plans to rebuild. We're just not there yet. Our focus right now remains on finishing the cleanup at the site."

Aaron said the company was still waiting to learn the cause of the fire.

The 11-alarm blaze broke out around 1:45 p.m. Sept. 1 and wasn't brought under control until the next day. The possibility of electric shock from solar panels on the roof apparently hampered firefighters.

Minor hot spots flared up in the following weeks in parts of the distribution center that remained unsafe. Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt said those spots were extinguished by the end of September after workers demolished those parts of the structure.

Aaron said he didn't have a timeline on when the demolition would be completed.

In a Sept. 9 interview with The Inquirer, Eni said the company was going to rebuild, and the Delanco distribution center site, which the company owns, was the preferred location.

He said the company wasn't sure how large its new facility would be.

The company's presence certainly helps to bolster Delanco's revenue. In 2013, Delanco received around $214,000 from Dietz & Watson, or roughly 4 percent of the township's nearly $5 million 2013 budget, according to officials.

The payment was the difference between two lump sums: nearly $248,000 Delanco received directly through a PILOT program and $34,000 in land taxes, officials said.


dsimon@phillynews.com

856-779-3829

@darransimon

Inquirer staff writer Harold Brubaker contributed to this article.

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