The Yorktowne Hotel – Environmental Assessment

Element Environmental Solutions (E2S) was contracted by the York County Economic Alliance to provide a hazardous materials survey and Phase I & II Environmental Site Assessment for the historic Yorktowne Hotel located in the heart of downtown York, PA. The Yorktowne Hotel has been a mainstay of York City since it opened in 1925. Many famous names have stayed at the Yorktowne over the years, including Bill Clinton, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra.  The Yorktowne Hotel has been renovated as part of a broader economic development plan for downtown York.  It boasts 123 rooms including 27 extended stay suites, a 400-person ball room, a restaurant, and a roof top bar.  The building has rich history coupled with that has been coupled with a modern renovation that is part of Hilton’s Tapestry collection of one of a kind hotels.

E2S performed a limited hazardous materials investigation to identify lead, asbestos, PCBs, and mercury. The hazardous materials survey identified asbestos containing materials in the form of pipe insulation, floor tiles, boiler insulation, and spray-on fireproofing. E2S’s Certified Industrial Hygienist completed a biological hazards survey to identify indoor air quality issues, including the presence of mold. Prior to the renovation, several species of mold were identified throughout the building. None of the mold levels were high enough to pose an immediate risk to human health; however, air quality issues, including musty smell, were present. The hazardous materials and biological hazards survey concluded with recommendations and cost estimates to remove the hazardous materials and remedy any nuisance odors.

E2S completed a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) prior to the start of renovations in 2015 that identified potential underground storage tanks (UST) as recognized environmental conditions (RECs) associated with the Yorktowne Hotel. The Phase I ESA revealed evidence of a heating oil tank, which was characterized as an archived tank, in the form of a vent pipe located on the exterior of the building along Mason Avenue. York City nor the Yorktowne Hotel could provide documentation of the heating oil tank’s removal, therefore, the heating oil tank was identified as a REC. Additionally, E2S identified several circular features on the historic Sanborn maps for the hotel that were consistent with underground storage tanks in the area of the parking garage . Interviews with a hotel representative determined that historically hotel guests were once provided with a car wash and gasoline fill-up during their stay. The concerns identified in the 2015 Phase I ESA were further investigated in a limited Phase II Environmental Site Assessment.  During the limited Phase II ESA, E2S personnel oversaw a geophysical investigation that attempted to locate a 10,000-gallon archive heating oil UST and suspect gasoline tanks. The geophysical survey also identified a feature at the corner of Duke Street and Mason Avenue, which is believed to be a grease trap.

Site renovations continued and the parking garage behind the Yorktowne was demolished. During demolition of the parking garage, construction crews encountered an underground storage tank in the area of the suspected archived heating oil tank. E2S was brought out to confirm the location of the UST and later reviewed the results of confirmatory soil samples collected beneath the UST, which was closed in place at the time of discovery.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed renovation progress, and E2S was contacted by the York County Economic Alliance in July 2021 to complete an updated Phase I ESA, which was required by redevelopment funding sources. E2S used knowledge obtained during the initial Phase I, limited Phase II, and UST closure project to compile an up-to-date Phase I ESA that removed the archived heating oil tank as a REC. However, outstanding questions remained for the suspect gasoline USTs along Duke Street and the gasoline USTs were identified as RECs once again.

E2S completed another limited Phase II ESA in August 2021 to further investigate the suspected gasoline USTs. E2S performed a soil boring investigation along Duke Street to determine if historic gasoline USTs had impacted the subsurface. Soil borings were installed to varying depths from 20 to 24 feet below ground surface and borings were screened with a photoionization detector (PID) to determine if volatiles were present in the soil. E2S collected soil samples for laboratory analysis of the PA short list of petroleum products for leaded and unleaded gasoline constituents. Review of laboratory analytical results confirmed that any potential historic gasoline USTs had not impacted the subsurface along Duke Street.

The York County Economic Alliance requested one final Phase I ESA update in February of 2022. E2S completed the Phase I ESA update including the information gained during the August 2021 limited Phase II ESA. and to ensure the new report complied with the newly adopted ASTM Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessment (ASTM E1527-21).  By compiling all the site specific knowledge from 2015 to 2022, E2S was able to eliminate all RECs associated with the Yorktowne Hotel and YCEA was able to secure all required approvals for funding to complete the renovations. The Yorktowne Hotel celebrated its grand re-opening in January 2023, operating under the Hilton Tapestry Collection of hotels. The renovated Yorktowne includes modern, luxury hotel rooms, a ballroom space, meeting space, a bar and restaurant in the Davidson Lobby, as well as the Graham Rooftop Lounge, which provides an outstanding view of the surrounding downtown area. Keep an eye out for historic artifacts that were preserved and restored throughout the hotel. E2S was thrilled to be a part of this project, which brought the “Cornerstone of York” back to life.