July 16, 2008

Landfill Expansion Eludes Public Favor

By Shari Sanger, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Jul. 16--TAYLOR -- Marygrace Wilce said one of the happiest days of her life was in October 2006, when her family built their home on Powell Street.

It's a beautiful view, including a scenic snapshot of Montage Mountain all lit up at night, she said.

At a public hearing Tuesday on a 60-acre expansion proposed by the adjacent Environmental and Recycling Services Inc. construction and demolition landfill, she wondered what might happen to her property value if the site were to reopen and expand.

She also expressed concern for her two children -- 5 years old and 3 months old.

"What are my children going to be breathing in?" she asked.

Mrs. Wilce was among a handful of residents who spoke at the hearing, held by the state Department of Environmental Protection to hear public comment both for and against ERSI's proposal. Of the 30 people or so who attended, no one spoke in favor of the expansion.

ERSI has been closed since March 2007, when its state operating permit expired. It's the second time ERSI's expansion application -- which seeks 10 acres of new landfill space and 50 acres that would overlay the existing construction and demolition waste landfill and the former Amity Landfill -- is being reviewed by DEP.

The state Environmental Hearing Board said DEP, which based its denial two years ago on the landfill's failure to address the "critical" issues of mine subsidence and groundwater contamination, failed to substantiate any of the reasons for its denial.

Also topping residents' concerns Tuesday were water runoff, truck traffic, noise, odor and potential health effects.

Ed Fortuna, of 81 Vine St., referred to his former residence at 501 Powell St. as "ground zero."

He said ERSI has been the source of nuisance complaints for about 28 years. One of the worst, he said, was in the fall of 2003, when the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide was so powerful it caused 1,000 students to be evacuated from Riverside School District buildings.

Mr. Fortuna said if the state grants the expansion permit, he would like to see special conditions in place, including an automatic shutdown if complaints go unaddressed after 48 hours.

If the landfill's application passes the first phase -- a harms/benefits analysis -- it will then move to an engineering and technical review.

DEP officials will accept written comments on the proposal through July 30.

Copies of ERSI's application are available for public view with Taylor borough, the Lackawanna County Planning Commission and DEP's Wilkes-Barre office.

Contact the writer: [email protected]


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