Thursday, February 21, 2019

Synagro attorneys arrogant and condescending - piss off planning commission AND Synagro at review of proposed crap bakery in Plainfield Township

At this evening's continued review of Synagro's land development plan for a biosolids (shit) bakery in Plainfield Township, Synagro's attorneys managed a rare feat.  They caused their own client to be embarrassed.

Synagro had requested 15 minutes to give a presentation at the beginning of the meeting.  The township announced that after this, each of five of the township's consultants would go over the most important outstanding deficiencies in the application.

Synagro project manager Jim Hecht wasted the first 15 minutes giving a justification why this plant is needed.  Not in Plainfield Township, but in general.  At a critical juncture in the application, Hecht pissed away 15 minutes speaking in generalities.  The only item of interest to this reporter was that on one slide where the goal seemed to be to reassure the community biosolids are safe, it was stated "If an element in biosolids not currntly regulated is found to be a risk, it will become regulated and we will test for it."  How reassuring!  Your husband and four others die of cancer a few years from now, and eventually the cause is found to be something in crap "fertilizer".  The gall.   Hecht did not waste even 1 second trying to explain why this plant would be good for this community.  Been there, done that.  $100,00 per year to three communities, MAXIMUM.  16 crappy jobs MAXIMUM.

As the planning commission readied to transition to its 5 consultants to give their top remaining unresolved issued, Synagro attorney Elizabeth Witmer got up and started presenting on a second overhead under the control of co-counsel Matthew Goodrich.  Witmer started talking over the chairman - not a good start.  Witmer insisted that Synagro should present a "list" of issues that it was addressing in a review letter sent to Synagro just today.  The chairman pleaded to let the township consultants each present their items, so Synagro could respond to them or make a note to reply later.  Witmer refused to change course, and began leading engineer David Allen PE representing Synagro through a list of items the planning commission was not even familiar with since they hadn't read these reviews yet.  Mind you, Synagro has been inundating the township with large piles of useless paper on average once a week - the last time this past Monday.  No one expected these to be addressed this evening, and certainly not anyone responding to a review sent this same day.

The list of items Witmer went through was relatively trivial stuff like drafting errors and missing signatures on plans - minutia compared with the large issues everyone knows remain.  After 15 minutes, multiple planning commission members and Solicitor Backenstoe attempted to wake Witmer the fuck up, and asked to proceed to the townships' consultants.  Planner Bob Simpson said "Look, it's you prerogative if you really want to do this.  Realize that you are demanding a decision from us by the end on March, and time is running out.  (it is the Applicant who approves extensions of deadlines) By not letting our consultants who advise us speak, you risk causing us not to hear what they have to say and  you not addressing their concerns - which in the long run is detrimental only to you."  Dumbass Witmer ignored Simpson and pressed on for an hour total, accomplishing something only in her own mind.

At one point, Scott Perin representing the landfill got up to misrepresent what was in a letter that DEP sent on February 14, 2019, in which it rescinded a letter issued on August 10, 2018 that indicated Synagro would be granted a waiver to not require a permit to partially fill in the pond adjacent to the proposed plant.  Perin claimed once again that the pond was properly engineered to become a sedimentation basin (there has been nothing produced to date to prove this), and in any event he stated the period to appeal a previous 2008 waiver for the same pond has long since expired.  Township consultant Jack Embick corrected some of Perin's misrepresentations, which caused Witmer to become agitated.  When Embick pointed out that he had requested Waste Management to provide said engineering during the appeal of the opinion in the August 10 letter, and has received NOTHING to date, Witmer went off on a rant that Embick was attempting to get information that he could use in a court case.  No, Embick was only mentioning he had requested what planners have been requesting for months - show us the conversion was properly engineered as required in the regulations to make it qualify for a waiver.  Not the 2008 waiver, but a new one that would be needed for the proposed development.  Witmer was totally irrational - "there is nothing in the law that requires us to produce that!"  Maybe not, but the planning commission and its consultants are requesting it as part of their job, you thick-headed idiot.

At 9:15, Simpson looked at Witmer and Goodrich and said in exasperation "I advised you an hour ago to start what we are now, and you said it would only take 15 minutes."  At this point David Allen PE and Jim Hecht remained standing at the podium, reluctant to give up their post serving Witmer's senseless task.  Someone in the audience muttered "sit the hell down" and chairman Levitz looked at them as if to say "we''re moving on".  If Witmer thought that Synagro had to only address some issues brought up today and they would be home free, she was badly mistaken.

The first consultant to present was Embick, who pointed out that months ago he had advised that Synagro provide an environmental impact statement.  At this point, Witmer climbed onto her "we ain't doing nothing that isn't required in your ordinance" horse, with Goodrich riding bareback - his arms tightly around her formidable waist. The problem is, Goodrich isn't a municipal law attorney, and Witmer doesn't appear to be competent.  Embick was going over how sections 4 and 5 of the township zoning ordinance lay out criteria and standards for protecting the health safety and welfare of the citizens.  Also, he mentioned the Environmental Rights Act and the PA Constitution, which guarantee citizens rights to clean air, water, etc.  Witmer sat looking around rather bored as Embick concluded that if Synagro will not do an EIS, his advice will be the application be denied.

Witmer claimed that PA DEP regulations will protect the citizenry - which is patently false.  First of all, the fact that DEP directed Syangro to apply for a general permit and not an individual one means that Synagro will not have to submit a Harms and Benefit Analysis.  Just look around at all the fuckups of DEP.  They don't protect anything except big business.  Look at how DEP rep Roger Bellas said "just fill that pond in, we don't care."  Witmer demanded to know where in the ordinance there are specific requirements that Synagro had to meet.  Planner Robin Dingle told her - and then another planner pointed out that the Municipalities Planning Code provides for protection of the health safety and welfare of the community.  The township could potentially be sued if Synagro's proposed project causes pollution of the water supply.

Witmer then tried a new tack - this is new - why didn't you suggest an Environmental Impact Statement previously?  Why now late in the game?  Embick in frustration replied "I asked for it months ago".

At one point, Bob Simpson wanted to find out "are you going to do a hydrogeological study, or not?"  Witmer hemmed and hawed.  Simpson asked "yes or no?" and then gave up saying "I'll take that as a "no".

Witmer got so testy that eventually Chairman Levitz gave Synagro and its consultants a dressing down.  He pointed out that not a single person from Synagro lives in Plainfield Township.  "This is our town, we will have to live with this plant for generations.  You should come in here with some humility, but you are doing the opposite by attempting to set the agenda and tell us what we do and don't need."  Humility did not emerge as the evening wore on and more consultants spoke.

Next to speak was Jason Smith, the wetlands specialist for the township.  Smith's main issue was with the pond (big surprise).  Since the retraction of August 10 letter, there is no assurance that Synagro will receive a waiver to fill in the pond.  If a permit is required, more strict Best Management Practices (BMPs) will be required by DEP.  Smith reported that some data shows that 16,400 gallons of water a day infiltrates into a shallow aquifer and walls of the quarry, which ultimately is transferred to the Waltz and Little Bushkill Creeks.  Smith stated that sedimentation basin #2 was not constructed as such - an outlet was in the design but never installed.  How can one have a sedimentation basin with no outlet? 

Smith stated that a 50' open space buffer applies to the pond PRIOR to modification, which would fuck up Synagro's plans - destroy them in fact.  Goodrich demanded to know where in the ordinance this is stated.  Township manager Petrucci provided the answer - in the Riparian Buffer section 22-1023.  It was Goodrich's turn to become testy, demanding to know if Smith was familiar with something in a permit application.  Smith replied "I feel like I am being interrogated.  I have read part of it."  Goodrich continued "I am just asking for an answer!  Tell me the answer!"  Go fuck yourself - how is that for an answer?

Next was the township's traffic consultant Terry, who pointed out that the zoning ordinance requires a traffic hazard impact study.  Synagro's traffic consultant Jason Shelter had appeared earlier at the meeting, and claimed that the Grand Central haul road does not qualify as a street, so in his opinion a study of the intersection of the proposed entrance from Pen Argyl Road and the haul road does not need to be assessed as Terry had determined.  This access point looks prime for both hazards and impacts!  Terry stated he would defer to the PennDOT highway occupancy permit process to address some of the issues with this access point.

The astute observer will recall that attorneys Goodrich and Witmer attempted to make the case that the haul road is a street, in the fall of 2017.  Doh!  Not anymore.  Whatever is convenient for the current argument.

Next  township engineering consultant Robert Lynn spoke with some general and specific zoning and SALDO concerns.  He stated he believes that Ordinance 229 that addresses driveways in his opinion would call for the calculations at the haul road intersection as Terry advised.  Lynn pointed out that there are several locations where Synagro trucks will conflict with each other, and other trucks.  Where will trucks "stack," what specific signs will be posted and where to control traffic?   Lynn's colleague Farley Fry requested that Synagro provide data that shows Synagro's trucks covered with tarps will not affect the surroundings.  Fry pointed out that in Hawaii at a Synagro facility, a regrowth of bacteria occurred after shit was baked.

Next was Mike Brunemanti, an environmental consultant.  Brunemanti had spoken with a hydrogeologist, who found that Synagro's response to requests for data and a hydrogeologic study would not satisfy his concerns.  Brunemanti stated that disposal of waste to an underground aquifer is potential pollution.  Further, sedimentation basin #2 in his opinion does not meet the requirements for a storm water control facility.

Brunemanti then made a reasonable suggestion - that runoff from roadways in the area not drain into the basin, but rather be collected and disposed of elsewhere.

Next was Trudy Johnston, who had comments on the land development plan as well as the nuisance mitigation plan.  The most interesting factoid to this observer in her comments was when someone asked how odors from the landfill will be discriminated from the shit factory.  The answer was that an "odor observer" (human) uses a "smells like" test.  Smells like crap, smells like trash...

Johnston reported that ammonia is not one of the substances that is covered by the nuisance mitigation plan draft, and she would like to see tighter controls on hydrogen sulfide.

We'e produced thousands of pages of answers."

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Synagro proposes to route all its Plainfield Township biosolids plant traffic to Pen Argyl Road in latest attempt to avoid a zoning variance - but not really

Tomorrow evening (see sidebar), Synagro will attempt to claim that they satisfy all township requirements, and that two zoning variances the township has determined are required are not really required (which is not Synagro's authority to determine).  Yesterday we looked at the fact that Synagro no longer has DEP's commitment to approve of a waiver to fill in a freshwater pond in order to obtain space to build a driveway and parking area, and also to meet the township's setback requirements and avoid a variance.  Today we look at the second variance, which involves access to the proposed plant.

On July 16, 2018, Synagro finally took a step to address the fact that a year earlier the Plainfield Township Zoning Officer had informed Synagro a year earlier that a zoning variance would be needed, since Synagro did not satisfy the specifications in the zoning ordinance for access to its site.  Synagro's engineer David Allen, PE (working for EarthRes Group) did a song and dance presentation that evening, in which he revealed an access point to Pen Argyl Road from the site - which is a collector road and would satisfy one criterion required by the ordinance.  David Allen PE hedged when asked if all of Synagro's trucks would use this new access point.  He said "some combination of this one as well as the entrance to the haul road from Rt 512."  In other words, this was tossing shit at the wall and hope someone would believe it.  The added access point is at the upper right:

Synagro's first attempt to provide an access that meets the ordinance

Here are the requirements of the ordinance Sec 27-316 specifically for a Material Separation Facility (which Synagro's use is if you read the ordinance definition - basically the reuse of crap through a heating process for use off site):
1. Entrances and exits to the facility shall be separated and clearly designated; 2. entrances and exits shall each be at least 30 feet in width and 3. shall be located along either an arterial or collector road.
There are three requirements for the the access drives, and Synagro has never met any of them and today still does not today as we shall soon see.

Both DEP and the township require a 50' throat length for "low volume" driveways, which Synagro's use would be at 37 trips per day.  A low volume driveway is a use of normally over 25 and under 750 trips daily, while a "minimum use" driveway is a use of normally 25 or fewer truck trips per day.  Throat length is the distance between the edge of pavement of the road and the first cross road on the site - in this case the landfill haul road.  David Allen PE stated back in July that the 30' throat length available was sufficient for a minimum use driveway but not a low volume driveway.  He proposed the new access point to Pen Argyl Road would be a minimum use driveway, and on the site plan depicted it as "Minimum Use Driveway" as seen here:

Minimum use driveway from Pen Argyl Road proposed July 2018
Does this look like separate entrances and exits, 30' in width?

Look at the kooky alignment vehicles would have to use to use this access point.  It had to be made 75' wide to allow trucks exiting and entering to not cross into oncoming traffic as they complete their turns.  They will still meet head-on as they travel through the throat.  Clearly, Synagro shit the bed with this first attempt.  It doesn't even satisfy the requirement to access the site from an arterial or collector road, because Synagro's total volume per day exceeds that of a minimum use driveway.

By October, Synagro's Traffic Engineer Jason Shetler on October 8 admitted this access to Pen Argyl Road to meet the requirements of the ordinance won't even be used and will be gated!

Testimony from October 8, 2018 planning commission review
That driveway... it isn't a driveway

Synagro then went back to the drawing board and pulled a new one out of its ass, realizing the "minimum use" emergency vehicle gated entrance wasn't going to win the day.
The latest is that the proposed access point to Pen Argyl Road was moved east to where a 50' throat length could be obtained.  Actually, the throat length is only 43' but Synagro's engineer appears to be suggesting installing curbing over existing pavement on the haul road to make it look like 50'.

Current proposed access to Pen Argyl Road

A closer look at this late term abortion:

Synagro is now proposing a Low Use Driveway
Notice how a truck (red) blocks the entire haul road if oriented normally

If you are following along, Synagro previously had a minimum use driveway to Pen Argyl Road as a smoke screen to make it look like they satisfied the ordinance requirement to be from a collector road - but they intended to put a gate across it and it would only be for emergency vehicles, and even if used could not handle the daily traffic.  Notice this proposal retains the bizarre approach angle, which would require a truck driver exiting to see traffic to the left at about a 190 degree angle from in front of his truck.  He would of course time share his attention to southbound traffic with being alert for northbound trucks entering that would plow right into him.  What the fuck is the "STOP" bar for, parallel to Pen Argyl Road?  An exiting truck can't possibly use it, as the movements on the diagram show.

Now they propose a low use driveway, which could handle all of their daily trip proposed volume.  But everyone knows they don't plan to use it.  This is just an extension of the smoke screen, which has already been revealed as nonsense.  The improvement here is Synagro might argue they can route all their traffic from this point.  Do you see separate entrances and exits 30' wide each?  Bwa ha ha. 

Let's see what is written in the report that Synagro's traffic engineer Traffic Planning and Design submitted in December 2018:

Word salad in the conclusion of Synagro's Traffic Engineer report
Note the white space - the report doesn't indicate that a human prepared it

This report continues to play both sides of the fence.  We did an analysis which uses Pen Argyl Road only, but we recommend that access be from Route 512.  The last paragraph begins by stating what is obvious - Pen Argyl Road access is only being provided to claim that access is from a collector road as required.  But in the very next sentence, we're back to assuming all traffic will access from the Route 512 access point.  No one from Traffic Planning and Design had the guts to even put their name on this report!

If they tell PennDOT "we don't plan to use it, except for in case of emergency" PennDOT should not issue a low use permit.  That is a minimum use.  The only reason they want it to be considered low use is so they can act like it satisfies the township requirement to route their trucks through it.  Then put a gate across it.  We see what you're doing.  Look at this other truck turn diagram from the current truck turns submission, which in fact shows all trucks using Route 512 and no trucks using the Pen Argyl Rd access point.  You just could not make this shit up:

Question Mark Guy sees an issue

You should ask yourself, would PennDOT issue a Low Use Highway Occupancy Permit for Pen Argyl Road?  Highly doubtful.  PennDOT should laugh Synagro out of the room. There is a scoping meeting that has been requested between PennDOT and Synagro that Plainfield Township will attend that has not yet taken place (Synagro stated that it would request this meeting way back in July) to start that discussion.

Note that the latest proposal does nothing to provide separate entrances and exits, 30' wide each, even if PennDOT were to approve this driveway.  They still need the zoning variance.

Question Mark Guy sees bidirectional truck traffic in current plan, when entrances and exits must be separated
Plainfield Township's consultant points out glaring deficiency

What to expect at the February 21 meeting

Synagro is pushing for only two more meetings, on February 21 and March 11.  At this point, there is no summary of all the outstanding deficiencies in their application.  Tomorrow, expect Synagro to claim they have met all requirements and answered all questions, and expect the township's consultants to summarize outstanding deficiencies in each of their respective specialties.  One consultant who has gotten very little time at meetings is Trudy Johnston, who has been reviewing Synagro's Nuisance Mitigation Plan - a thick document that has gone through multiple reviews and updates off-line.

The zoning variances are game changers - Synagro can't meet the ordinance requirements of the open space around water bodies or the access road.  But there are numerous outstanding items that must be discussed as well.  It's time for an itemized list, so that the commission can make a recommendation.  Here's one - take your shitty project elsewhere!

Monday, February 18, 2019

DEP retracts letter indicating Synagro will be granted waiver in Plainfield Township to fill in freshwater pond without a waterways permit

DEP Solid Waste guru Roger Bellas has retracted his opinion by letter dated August 10, 2018 that Synagro would be granted a waiver to fill in a portion of a waterway - a former quarry that is now a freshwater pond - that is within 10 feet of Synagro's proposed biosolids (shit) bakery in Plainfield Township.  He did this retraction via a letter dated February 14, 2019.  A Valentine's for Plainfield Township.  Was a red rose included?  Yellow for friendship?  Bwa ha ha - he is no friend.

Click to see existing freshwater pond boundary 10' from proposed crap bakery

The August 10, 2018 Bellas Letter

Synagro has argued for over a year that the pond was engineered as a stormwater management facility,  as reviewed and approved by the DEP.  Such a waiver requires an engineered plan.  Indeed DEP granted a similar waiver after the landfill gas to energy plant was built to partially fill in the pond.  Bellas stated in his August letter that DEP had previously reviewed engineered plans and based on that would extend the waiver to cover a significant amount of fill that Synagro proposes to add, to obtain the space it needs to develop its project.  However, neither the DEP, Waste Management who owns the property and would lease land to Synagro, or Synagro has presented evidence that this engineering was done.  This was the basis for a lawsuit by Plainfield Township against the DEP, arguing that the engineering was not done.

On January 28, the court hearing the township's appeal denied a request by Waste Management and DEP to dismiss the appeal, specifically citing the fact that DEP has presented not a scintilla of evidence to support that the engineering was done.  Now Bellas retracts his letter - which ostensibly will terminate the case before the Environmental Hearing Board.  Bellas' letter has not yet been entered into the docket, and the case is still open.  Do the math - once the court ruled the appeal should move forward, the DEP folded its "the engineering was done" tent and evacuated the area.

Significance of this retraction
First off, this would seem to indicate that DEP and Roger Bellas did not previously issue the same waiver on this water body after review of the required documentation.  They probably thought "hey, it's a frickin hole in the ground - go ahead and fill it in".  This could be cured of course by Synagro doing the required testing and engineering (planners have requested for many months that Synagro do hydrogeological testing to characterize the flow of water into and out of the pond), and DEP determining after a real review that the impact on the pond is within acceptable limits.  Synagro has repeatedly stated it would not do such testing.  Bellas states in his February 14th letter that DEP will continue to review the applications from Synagro - a threat perhaps that it could reverse course and issue said waiver later in the process.  DEP is now fully on notice citizens aren't going to take this crap lying down, and if operating permits for the plant are ultimately issued they can expect an appeal on this and/or other issues.  The township, Pen Argyl, Delware Riverkeeper, and private citizens will be queuing up to file a complaint.

Quite simply, if Synagro doesn't obtain permission to partially fill in the pond, it doesn't have a driveway to get trucks to and from the proposed building.

The local significance is that without partially filling the pond, the open space required by the township (50') adjacent to water bodies is not available.  In fact, Synagro proposes to build its parking lot in the pond.  Synagro would require a zoning variance - a variance it can not possibly obtain - the property is generating millions of dollars in revenue currently, so there is no hardship on its owner.  This is why Synagro has not applied for variances, like any other applicant would have over a year ago.  Synagro has been on notice since July 2017 these variances are required!  Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent since then on this absurd proposal, without going and (trying to) getting the zoning required zoning relief.

The township maintains currently that an open space buffer can not be obtained by filling in the very body that the required 50' buffer is designed to protect.  Common sense isn't so common - evidenced by Synagro claiming that they meet the ordinance when they clearly do not.  The waiver would not negate the township's ability to enforce its ordinance, but it is easier when the applicant can't argue that it is a stormwater basin.

Next meeting is Thursday February 21 (see sidebar)
At the February 21 Synagro review meeting, you can bet that Synagro will claim it does not need this 50' open space buffer, or that it meets the requirement, or some other line of rancid bullshit spewed out by a tap dancing carnival barker.  Who will draw the straw to do the dirty work?  Synagro project manager Jim Hecht?  EarthRes engineers David Allen orThomas Pullar?  That dreadful, irritating "we aren't going to do a Q&A here" smirking attorney Elizabeth Witmer for Synagro?  When will the Synagro reality series "Slate Belt Shitstorm" be released on tv?

Synagro certainly won't be happy about this development.  No longer can they claim that DEP will consider the pond a stormwater management facility after Synagro modifies it, or even that DEP will grant them a waiver to partially fill it.

Next we will look at the other zoning variance Synagro needs to just access its site, and the bizarre argument they hope will daze planners into believing that this variance is not required.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Waste Management/Synagro's motion to dismiss appeal of DEP permit waiver for Plainfield Township crap bakery is DENIED

One principal issue with the proposed Synagro biosolids plant in Plainfield Township is the fact that it would located a mere 5 to 10 feet from the boundary of a former quarry that is now a man-made pond. Sheet flow, or rather shit flow of runoff from the loading, unloading, truck maneuvering, and truck wash areas will all flow towards this water body.  While Synagro is proposing that there will be safeguards to prevent liquefied shit from entering the pond, anyone with half a brain knows full well it will happen regularly.  Even Syangro's consultant Tom Pullar has stated it is a hope that a vegetated buffer adjacent to the pond will filter out any shit that comes its way.

DEP has been working with Synagro to slam approval of this project through, and doing whatever it can to make it easier for Synagro and pave the way for more shit bakeries the breadth of Pennsylvania.  The DEP instructed Synagro to apply for a General permit instead of an Individual permit, which would make it easier to approve permits for future similar projects across the state.

Another helping hand that DEP has lent to Synagro is to grant a waiver so that a water quality permit will not be required for the pond.  This pond exchanges water with two nearby high quality creeks.   DEP appears to not give a shit, pun intended.  The township appealed this decision, and you can find the docket and background here.

Legal issues involving the DEP are handled in a special court - the Environmental Hearing Board.  The township appealed a statement by DEP that this waiver would be granted, and Grand Central (Waste Management - owner of land that would be leased to Synagro for its plant) filed a Motion to Dismiss.

The Court was underwhelmed by Grand Central's motion to dismiss

A week ago, Grand Central's motion was denied by the court.  Interestingly, the court found the same deficiency with the motion that the township has found - there are few to no details known about the sedimentation basin, how it is currently being used or how it will be used.  And the only details in this lawsuit thus far have been supplied by the township.  The motion was dismissed without prejudice that Grand Central might supply more detail in a later filing.

"Our issue with Grand Central's motion is that it provides almost no contextual or background information on its site or the sedimentation basin addressed in the letter.  Grand Central has not explained what the site is, what happens at the site, or how Sedimentation Basin No.2 fits in at the site.  We are told that Sedimentation Basin No. 2 is currently covered by Solid Waste Permit No. 100265 and NPDES Permit No. PA0074083, but we do not know what that means exactly, or how that relates to what the Department is saying in its letter."
"Only the township has taken the time to address in even remote detail what it contends is the function and history of Sedimentation Basin No. 2
In other words, Grand Central's argument sucks just as badly as Synagro's presentation to the planning commission, and the EHB isn't buying it the same way the planning commission and township consultants didn't.

This means that the discovery phase of this case, already underway, will continue.  What should be produced in discovery is what Grand Central should have included with its motion to dismiss to demonstrate to the court that everything is hunky-dory.  Instead they produced roughly zero.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Deficiencies in Synagro Land Development Plan to be reviewed at Tuesday Planning Commission meeting in Plainfield Township


Reports from the various consultants working to assist Plainfield Township planners in assessing compliance with the Zoning Ordinance and SALDO (subdivision and land development ordinance) are on the agenda to be reviewed on Tuesday, January 29, at 7pm at the Plainfield Township Fire Company on Sullivan Trail in Wind Gap.

These are attached below, and include:
  • Material Matters remaining deficiencies in Nuisance Mitigation Plan dated Dec 17
  • Benchmark Civil Engineering traffic review dated Dec 21
  • Plainfield Township Zoning Office review dated Dec 21
  • Material Matters general comments on application dated Dec 28
  • BCM Engineers comments dated Jan 17
  • Hanover Engineering general zoning comments (Robert Lynn) dated Jan 17
  • Hanover Engineering wetlands specialist comments (Jason Smith) dated Jan 18
The challenge for Plainfield's planners is to figure out what to do with this hefty pile of crap.  Synagro has refused to accept that the township Zoning Office has determined that variances are required*.   Any other Applicant would either walk away (Synagro can't possibly show the hardship needed for the variances), or file an Application for an Interpretation and in the alternative a Variance with the Zoning Hearing Board.  Synagro has done neither.  The Zoning Hearing Board is the venue to determine if the Zoning Officer erred in determining that a variance is required, so it is unclear what Synagro's strategy is.  Sooner or later, they will have to appear before the ZHB.  

*In its December 21, 2018 review, the Zoning Office identified a third variance that may be required - see the very bottom of this post for an explanation.

Why did Synagro and Waste Management spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an application in which the Zoning Officer has determined that Synagro can't even access the proposed site?  The answer is this plant will be highly lucrative and it is impossible to find locations that permit such a shit factory.  This opportunity is too damned good to pass on, and a three or four hundred grand is nothing in comparison to the income this would generate for both Synagro and Waste Management.

On Tuesday evening, the charade will continue, as planners begin the process of plowing through the reports listed above.


How does this end?  Currently, Synagro has allowed through February 28th for planners to finish their review and make a recommendation.  This will not be sufficient.  The reviews pending discussion have found significant deficiencies remain, and when the planners are ready to discuss a recommendation it will likely require more than one meeting to agree on its terms.  Planners have two choices when the make their recommendation on the Preliminary Land Development Plan:
  • Recommend approval of the Plan, with a lengthy list of conditions that all reamining deficiencies be addressed and additional conditions be met (for example)
  • Recommend the BOS deny the plan, with justifications
It will likely require at least three more meetings including the Tuesday meeting for this shitshow to reach a conclusion.
Update: The deadline for a decision from the planning commission has been extended by Synagro to March 31.

Reviews on tap to be discussed Tuesday

Third variance identified in Zoning Office review letter dated Dec 21

In the Synagro application for a General Permit for its facility (click to see document), Form L contains a Contingency Plan in case of emergencies.   There are several references in Form L, including Form L Figure 2 Facility Plan (pdf page 99 in the document linked to), to sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide being stored in above ground storage tanks (ASTs) "adjacent to" the dryer building - outside.  Plainfield's ordinance permits above ground storage tanks of up to 600 gallons of regulated liquids.  Note that Synagro's site plan being reviewed by township planners does not show these tanks outside the building, and in other places the tanks are shown inside the drier building.

Graphic in Synagro's DEP General Permit application - Form L Figure 2

At a minimum, Synagro would need to inform DEP that its Contingency Plan isn't accurate if the AST's are inside.  A portion of the text of Form L is shown below:

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Testimony of Lisa Perin, granddaughter of Grand Central Landfill founder, explains why Synagro plant would be never-ending negative value-added nuisance for Slate Belt

At a planning commission review of Synagro's shit bakery proposed in Plainfield Township, the granddaughter of Grand Central Sanitary Landfill's founder spoke at courtesy of the floor.  Lisa Perin, who lives adjacent to the landfill, spoke at length and from her unique perspective.  She itemized several ways in her opinion that the proposed project would be horrible for the community.

Lisa Perin

Ms. Perin appeared at only at this one meeting, but her comments reflect an understanding as someone who as she put it "heard trash talk at the dinner table."  On one point she was not familiar - that natural gas is available on the site currently, and will be used both as a supplementary energy source from inception as well as the sole source once the landfill closes and landfill gas ceases to be produced.  Once she learned this is the case, she immediately integrated the consequences of this for the community - it will be fucked.if this plant is built.  Ms. Perin also assumed the jobs would all be truck drivers, which ignores the fact there will be a couple of shit pushers in the building.

Ms. Perin's complete testimony,is below, with key phrases emphasized.


INTERESTED CITIZEN: So I have two reasons for being here tonight. One is I live in extremely close proximity to the proposed facility.  I actually live on Grand Central Road. And if you walk out my front door from here to that wall back there. I'm looking at the current leachate tanks which don't bother me because I know how they’re controlled. But I do live close enough to this that it concerns me.

And the second reason is that I have a little bit of inside knowledge on the landfill industry given that my grandfather, Robert Perin, was the founder of GCS and my father. Ronald Perin, the late Ronald Perin, was the president until ‘95 when it was sold.

So just to give you a little insight on the litmus test that I’m using in my mind, I'm going to tell you how GCS started very briefly.

In the 1960’s the local town mayors came to visit my grandfather Bobby because they desperately needed a place to put their garbage. Having already asked several local farmers who turned them down and him being in the excavating business with holes in his ground, they felt that it was a good fit. He actually turned them down, he didn't want to do it. A little known fact.

They begged him to take the garbage because they had a great need for the local community. Eventually he decided to do it and here we are today how many years later.

So my litmus test here is that whether or not you like the landfill or not, it has provided hundreds of jobs over the years, a significant amount of additional tax revenue and has fulfilled a need for this community directly.

When I look at the proposed sludge plant, and I do -- now I'm a Perin, so there's a great deal of people who are very surprised that I'm against it. When I look at the sludge plant, it does not pass the litmus test in my mind. Does it provide enough jobs to outweigh the negative factors? No, not in my mind.

I believe that it was going to provide approximately 16 trucking jobs. So let's just discuss that real briefly. I think you used the phrase, family sustaining wages. 16 jobs that would provide family sustaining wages. I'd really like to know what your definition of family sustaining wages is, because I know what truck drivers make. And if you take out the taxes and you consider the
skyrocketing rents around here, you can't rent something for under a thousand that's decent here anymore. There's no standard on wages that these truck drivers are going to get paid.

How much revenue, if any, will be passed on to the community? The landfill via tipping fees provides a great deal of money to the community.  Yes, mostly to Plainfield Township.  I understand that's a bane of contention over the years.  But we do have things like the -- now the Slate Belt Regional Police Department, which was originally built with Plainfield funds, a lot of which came from the landfill. That's the reason that they have such a nice police department and the reason that is the one that you ended up using.

We don't know how much this is going to provide to the community. I don't believe there has been any answer. I do know that it's going to benefit Synagro. I do know that it's going to benefit Waste Management greatly. I do know that there's an awful lot of money being sent here today.

It was learned later the answer is "Up to $100,000 annually" total for Wind Gap, Plainfield Township, and Pen Argyl according to a Green Knight Treasurer Peter Albanese.  Millions of dollars for Synagro and Waste Management.  Ms. Perin is deftly explaining that this is a lose-lose for the community while the perpetrators profit handsomely.

There's attorneys racking up hundreds of dollars an hour, research and development, people flying in. I'm sure Synagro paid for all of them to drive up or fly in from wherever they came from.  They're spending an awful lot of money because it's going to be extremely profitable for them. Is it going to be profitable for this community? Not enough to outweigh the negative factors.

Does it fulfill a need in our community? The answer is no. Our sewer plants are currently able to handle what we process and provide in sewage in this area. We're taking in sewage from other communities. And let's face it, it's probably the very large cities that cannot process their sewage fast enough, which is also a great concern.

I realize that as far as this goes tonight, everything is very technical, dust control, odor control, there's a lot of things that you have to consider in approving this.

And I do understand that from a technical point, but I would like to point something out to you. The most important thing you should be considering here is whether or not your community wants this, not whether it passes X. Y, Z zoning and department of environmental protection issues. Does your community want this, should be the number one most important question in your mind.

Does it provide a service for your community?  No.  Does your community want it? No.  Overwhelmingly I know that you're aware that this community absolutely does not want it. If you put it to a public vote, which I actually believe that you should, you already know in your hearts and your minds that the overwhelming vote would be against it.

You are here to represent the people of this township. And I really hope that you take some of what I'm saying into consideration tonight and take some weight from the fact that I am who I am and I know what I know from family experience.

I'd like to add one more thing, and I know that you had a comment on courtesy, so I'm going to try co say this as courteously as possible to you, ma'am. I'm sorry, I don't remember your name because I came in after you introduced yourself.

I respect how long you've done your job. I can hear the mumbling because I sat in the back row at the number of times that you answered I don't know or I will have to set back to you. And this is no disrespect. I'm just pointing out that it is disconcerting to the people sitting in the audience that if you have 30 years of experience, you should be able to answer the questions off the top of your head or most of them, instead of continually saying I don't know. I'll have to check, or I'll get back to you.

How can you not know off the top of your head how many odor complaints there have been at a facility that is not near something else creating a smell?

You don't really need -- I mean, you can answer that if you want. Hold on, I'1l be finished in a second.

In closing, I would like to add one more thing because I did learn tonight that it supposedly only has a 20-year life span which is something new to me. But I would like to point something out to you from the Perin point of view because I sat around the family table many nights growing up listening to the inside conversations that were going on when the landfill was always applying for expansions and here fighting for expansions.

It is well-known in the private circles inside the landfill industry that it is far easier to expand a landfill than it is to create a new one. I would like you to apply that to this here, because you can say that it's only going to have a 20-year life span because the energy produced by the landfill is going to decrease over time after the landfill closes.

But how do you know by the time that comes that they aren't going to find another energy source? Because you need to take into consideration that the reason that they're spending so much on attorneys and research and development and spending time here is because it's really hard to open a new sludge plant and they're going to find a way to extend this one via a new energy source because that will be easier in 20 years than it will be to open another new one. And by then all this will long have been forgotten.

Please take those things into consideration. This may not be the 20 years that you're expecting it to be. A landfill has a time limit. At a certain point it can no longer expand.  It has nowhere to go. This will not just be 20 years, and I'm guaranteeing you that tonight, based on what I know of expanding landfills.

And I apologize in advance to my cousin Scott who works for Waste Management, him and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum on this, but I still love you. I thank you very much for your time.

If you would like to answer the question that I asked you about the number of odor complaints, I believe you previously answered that you have to check.

MS. RACEY: Sure. I mean, particularly in a setting like this, you want to be accurate, right? Because you don't to come back and say. oh, you said this or you said that. And, you know, we operate 500 projects across the country.  I can’t know everything that happened ever everywhere. Off the top of my head the answer is, no, there haven’t been any, but I want to check that because I care about being accurate.

INTERESTED CITIZEN: I do, too, because I live within a very close distance and have well water and I would like to make sure that my children aren't showering and drinking that. And I thank you very much for your time tonight. Thank you.

MR. KLEINTOP: Ms. Perin, for your information, the landfill has been using natural gas for probably five, six years already. And if you been here earlier, you would hear Synagro tell you that they plan on already using 16 percent natural gas. So they're set up to go. When the landfill can't provide waste heat, it's already in place.

INTERESTED CITIZEN: You're saying that when the landfill can no longer provide the heat, they're going to cease operating?

MR. KLEINTOP: No, they're going to convert over 100 percent to natural gas.

INTERESTED CITIZEN: Then how can it be 20 years? They're saying it can only be 20 years. In all honesty, it's going to be much longer than that. It's probably never going to cease.

MR. KLEINTOP: I don't believe they're saying they're going to operate the plant for 20 years. They base their return on investment on a plant operating 20 years. Now, they can step in any time they like. I don't believe they were saying they were going to close up shop at the end of 20 years.

MS. RACEY: You're correct. The economic analysis for the plan was on a 20-year basis. After that point we would assess, you know, is there a business case to stay open going forward. 

INTERESTED CITIZEN: And the answer, as I said, will most likely be, yes, because it will be easier to continue the existing facility than it will be to open a new one. So, therefore, many years after the landfill has closed, this will be indefinite. You need to keep that in your mind.  This will likely be indefinite and forever. There will be no ending to it.

May 31, 2018

In the course of numerous planning commission reviews from November 2016 through December 2019,  as well as a DEP hearing in November 2018, over one hundred citizen witnesses including Ms. Perin have spoken at courtesy of the floor.  Every single witness has spoken in objection to the proposed plant.  To close this post, we have the testimony of Ms. Perin's uncle, Nolan Perin, who is the single witness in that time to have spoken "neutrally" - he stated he is not for or against it, but you can tell from his comments his true feelings - the Slate Belt should get its hands dirty "recycling" someone else's shit.

MR. PERIN: Good evening. My name is Nolan Perin, and I reside at 253 Meadow Lane, Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania about a mile or so southeast from the proposed facility.  I have a lifelong involvement with the waste industry, landfill and waste hauling side of the business.
We only have a few options now. We can recycle, have direct contact with the land as was done with mine reclamation. We can landfill it, or we can recycle it and turn it into useful products. While the last works fairly, well, it is limited to about half the days of the year due to weather consideration.  And the sheer amount of materials - excuse me a minute. And the sheer amount of land necessary for the landfill creates some other issues, exposing that water to the landfill and making it more contaminated.
My professional opinion is recycle the material.  These types of facilities reverse the process.  My home is close to the proposed facility, and I have no personal objection to it being built, nor do I state an objection.  In regard to health issues, I do not think the proposed facility is a threat. That facility has nothing to do with our communities. Our friends and neighbors are working the sewage treatment plants, and we have several septic tanks in the area. Who's getting sick? What is being handled is raw sewage. I don't see anyone getting sick.
Nov 7, 2018 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

EPA Office of Inspector General reports that 352 unregulated pollutants are in land-applied biosolids like Synagro's Slate Belt plant would produce

On November 15, the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA issued a report whose findings are contrary to what Synagro and Green Knight have been claiming about the Class A biosolids that Synagro proposes to produce in Plainfield Township - that the product poses no risk to humans.   Synagro will test for only what it is required to test for - they have stated this numerous times during the Planning Commission review of its site plan and land development plan.  When asked if they would test for more pollutants, the answer from project manager Jim Hecht and Synagro/Waste Management attorney Elizabeth Witmer is consistently "no" or "we will test only for what is required".

Testing is required for only 9 metals.  That's it.  The Office of the Attorney General found that 61 pollutants of the 352 in land-applied biosolids that are currently unregulated are considered "acutely hazardous, hazardous or priority pollutants in other [EPA] programs"

Synagro, Waste Management, Green Knight and even the PA DEP are acting as though this project is "green" and good for the environment.  There is nothing "green" about impacting people's health.

(The report is at this link and also linked below)