Friday, December 9, 2016

Synagro proposes crap recycling plant in Plainfield Township on lot which is already full of crap

Blogger's note: There is a saying - don't shit in your own backyard.  This story concerns someone else shitting in my backyard, and is a departure from the water extraction topic normally reported on here.

Holy Crap!
On the heals of a lengthy battle in Upper Mount Bethel Township over the distribution of sludge (crap) on agricultural fields, which includes the recent filing of a lawsuit on behalf of UMBT residents (filed by none other than Bethlehem attorney John Kotsatos, who attended several Nestle hearings in Kunkletown and is representing West Penn Township residents in their battle against Jay Land's water extraction operations), comes a new threat - Synagro proposes to site a sludge/biosolids (crap) recylcing plant in Plainfield Township.

The plant would be located on same site as all of the support operations of the Pen Argyl Waste Management/Grand Central Sanitary Landfill.

How much crap can residents take?
Evidently someone believes quite a bit.  At the first review of this proposal, the Nov. 21 planning commission meeting, it was revealed that Synagro would be taking in 400 tons of crap a day and baking it. Yum.  They actually call the product "cake".

Here's the scary part.  Someone asked Grand Central manager Scott Perin, who was in attendance, "how much crap do you accept at the landfill each day," and his answer was "about the same."  That's right, folks, the landfill in Pen Argyl is depositing 400+ tons of shit in the ground, each day.  Does the DEP know?  There is a call in to find out.  So, this site would have a lot of shit going on, and it has a lot of shit going on already.  No wonder it smells like shit in the area.  800 tons a day - whoa daddy, shit storm!

Location of proposed Synagro operation on lot already being used

Plainflield Township Zoning Ordinance Permits One Principal Use Per Lot
On the lot in question, which is tax parcel E8 11 8, Grand Central Sanitary Landfill has all the support services for its landfill - a business office, the truck terminal, wash station, recycling.  These are all accessory uses related to the same business.  Pick one as the principal use - the county uses truck terminal.  The others are accessory to it.  In 2014, the Plainfield Township Zoning Hearing Board in its infinite wisdom granted a use variance to add a second principal use to this lot - a retail natural gas terminal.  When they did this, they failed to determine that the criteria for the variance were not met, because they did not address the criteria in their deliberations.  Instead, everyone on the board and the board's solicitor glad-handed and kept telling each other how great it was that the township would have a natural gas terminal.  This proceeding was a sham and handled in the manner of a "kangaroo court," though a zoning hearing board is a quasi-judicial body whose decisions may be appealed to courts of common pleas.  This proceeding looked more like a political event.  No one appealed this decision.

Sham decision to grant a variance for a second principal use on site targeted by Synagro

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code has uniform objective criteria to grant a variance, and a use variance is the hardest to justify.  Here are the criteria that the Zoning Hearing Board has an obligation to evaluate one by one, but did not in granting the 2014 variance:

Uniform criteria in Pennsylvania MPC Sec 910.2 to grant a variance
Synagro can't meet the first three, and all must be met

Sludge Free UMBT Alleges Township Review Process is "Rubber Stamp"
Is the Cake Already Baked?  
The same Zoning Officer who required Grand Central to obtain the variance in 2014 for the additional principal use of a retail gas pump on the targeted lot in 2016 failed to require a variance to the same Ordinance article for Synagro, to add the much more significant principal use of crap recycling plant - which will cost $20m.  Hanover Engineering (substituting for Ott Consulting) failed to flag the principal use issue - which they should have done.  Instead, they simply accepted the zoning officer's comments that the use is permitted, reprinting them in their review letter.  Members of the organization Sludge Free Upper Mount Bethel Township attended the Nov. 21, 2016 planning commission meeting, witnessed the discussion about principal uses and member Robert Cornman's encouragement to recommend approval that night, and drew the conclusion that the review process is no more than a "rubber stamp".  They may be correct - how can the zoning officer have not realized a Use Variance is needed?  Attendees report that the zoning officer, when questioned in the meeting, said "it was decided years ago there can be multiple uses on this lot.  It's not even an issue."  By the zoning officer's "rationale", the granting by the Zoning Hearing Board of the variance he required in 2014, with not even addressing the criteria, gives Grand Central carte blanche to now add as many principal uses as they wish.  Movie theater, car wash, auto parts store - the sky is the limit.  This is the person whose responsibility it is to see that the zoning ordinance is met.  No wonder spectators thought they were witnessing a rubber stamp.  Push er through, we'll work out the "details" later.

Mr. Cornman is Vice President of Green Knight Economic Development Corporation (GKEDC), which runs the Green Knight Energy Center on the adjacent site. Synagro's application claims that the bulk of the heat to bake their cake (fry the shit) will be supplied from the Green Knight Energy Center, yet the Site Plan does not show this.  This will be covered in a separate post.  Steve Hurni is a Plainfield supervisor and also a member of GKEDC.  Sludge Free UMBT reportedly distributed a flyer by mail today detailing Mr. Cornman and Mr. Hurni's associations.  Although Mr. Cornman recused himself from voting or making motions, witnesses state he proposed the planning commission sending the application to the Zoning Hearing Board that night, with conditions for deficiencies.  These deficiencies were significant, such as Synagro would not specify if its waste water would be routed to the Waltz or Little Bushkill Creek, which are both high quality cold water fisheries (HQ-CWF).  4/5 of planning commission members sit on the township EAC, so why they would send an application on that has environmental uncertainties and lack of definition defies logic.  Was Mr. Cornman having his cake and eating it too this evening?   Not make a motion but make a motion?

Zoning Officer fails to require a variance to Sec 401 - crap recycling is a third principal use

Hanover Engineering Review Parrots Zoning Officer's Comments on Use,
Failing to Flag Need For Use Variance

Synagro Argues That Crap Recycling is Merely One Principal Use On Lot That has Several
On Nov. 22, 2016, the Plainfield Township Zoning Officer belatedly verbally informed Synagro that a variance would in fact be needed to Sec 401 for multiple principal uses, following a discussion at the Nov. 21 planning commission meeting.  Synagro filed a variance application on Dec 5, 2016, with the wild claim that this lot has historically had several principal uses, in justification of why a variance to Sec 401 should be granted.  They claim that slate processing and mineral extraction are "present uses", though they were abandoned many years ago.  Synagro's own site plan depicts "Former Slate Mill Quarry Building (Abandoned)" - see below - so let's cut the crap.  They list all the accessory uses to the landfill, as if each is a principal use but they are accessory and not principal uses.  These comprise one principal use.  Last, they list the gas pump, which is a legitimate second principal use.
Slate Mill shows as "abandoned" on Synagro Site Plan, but "Present Use" in Variance Application (seen below)

Synagro "gilds the lily" by claiming there are numerous existing principal uses

Cummon, Synagro, a Polished Turd is Still a Turd

What's next?  Tex-Mex, Electricity and Shit
The Planning Commission meets on December 19, 2016 at 7pm to next consider the Synagro application.  Here is the agenda for the night:
  1. Taco Bell Special Exception Application for demolition of Wind Gap Professional Center and construction of fastfoodery with drive through @ 6695 Sullivan Trail and Rt 512
  2. Metrotek Electrical Services Site Plan for Speck Plastics location
  3. Synagro Special Exception Application (continued)
Synagro's project may not get the floor until 9:30pm, since there are two new applicants before it on the agenda.  That is how it works - new business first.

The Zoning Hearing has not been scheduled, but will likely be in January or February.  Each meeting is important to attend, if you are concerned about the proposed project.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Niagra Bottling reportedly stops accepting deliveries of water from West Penn Fort Franklin Road site due to poor quality

In early November, residents of West Penn Township near Jay Land's company Ringgold Acquisition Group's water extraction site on Fort Franklin Road had their water quality go to hell. It turned brown, developed extreme sediment, and a foul odor. It became unsafe and unusable. This was after water extraction at the Fort Franklin Road site was increased quickly to 100,000 gallons a day, falling just under a DEP permit trigger quantity. Both investigators and residents had documented that 15 tankers a day were hauling water from the site to Niagra Bottling in Allentown.


As of November 2, the last tanker truck reportedly left the Fort Franklin Road site. Reports are that the water from Fort Franklin had prematurely ruined 10's of thousands of dollars of filters. In short, the water was poor quality.  On November 9, Mr. Land had two new wells drilled a the Fort Franklin Road site.

What goes around comes around.
Niagra says no mas!

Jay Land claims trucks hauling water from West Penn Fort Franklin site are safe, despite crossing into oncoming traffic and continuing accidents

Title 75 of the PA Code, Title 75 Sec 3745 covers leaving the scene of an accident in which there is damage to another vehicle or property.

On at least three occasions in October and November, the guardrail on the corner of Route 309 and Blue Mountain Drive was struck and damaged, according to residents.  The first incident was reported to the police as a water tanker striking it, and the property owner of the Fort Franklin water extraction site was reportedly seen inspecting the damage the following day.

Also, video and still pictures taken during this time show that loaded tankers leaving Blue Mountain Drive and turning onto Route 309 South are crossing totally over the double line on Blue Mountain Drive, and sit stopped while waiting to turn.  This creates a hazard for anyone travelling 50+ mph and turning quickly onto Blue Mountain Drive.  Also, tankers are pulling across all 4 lanes of Route 309, blocking all traffic that is travelling 50+ mph in both directions.

At the December 5, 2016 spoke publicly about issues involving the Fort Franklin site, including questions about the safety of tankers travelling to and from the site.  Incredibly, Mr. Land stated that the road is safe and trucks are not making the road unsafe.  Take your pick of blocking Blue Mountain Drive, blocking Route 309 and destroying the guardrail - which one(s) don't decrease safety?  Did anyone in the room believe him?  Do they have a barf bag dispenser at the entrance to the meeting room, like the poop bags for dogs on walking trails?

Here is a picture of the guardrail after the first incident, taken on October 7, 2016:

Here is a picture taken November 21, 2016:

And finally November 30, 2016:

Here is a video showing what Mr. Land apparently considers "safe" operation of water tankers leaving his site - note the car and tractor trailer that have a close call steaming up Route 309:

Monday, December 5, 2016

West Penn Supervisors vote 2-1 to agree to take no action against Jay Land's water extraction operation - while safety issues and public property damage continue

On November 15, 2016, the West Penn BOS met in an executive session to discuss Jay Land's Ringgold Acquisition Group's water extraction operation on Fort Franklin Road.

After this lengthy meeting which included the township zoning officer, it was reported that:

  • Mr. Land would be asked to submit a "sketch plan" documenting the permits he intended to obtain
  • A DEP representative would be asked to attend tonight's BOS meeting, and provide a written response to the township's "request for action"
  • The zoning officer has been in touch with State Representative Argall
  • Supervisor Bogosh stated that he doesn't "think a land development plan is needed"
  • Chairman Dean stated the question is, is this business compliant with the zoning ordinance
  • Chairman Dean would like someone else to step up to the plate (emphasis added, eg DEP)
  • Supervisor Prudenti believes the "action" has no teeth and a cease and desist order should be filed.
Two out of three of supervisors are clueless and useless.  Prudenti is the only one acting responsibly.  First of all, the question for Mr. Dean is, is the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of West Penn Township being protected.  The answer is clearly "no".  In a November 7, 2016 Times News article, it was documented that a resident's water had become unsafe and unusable following the inception of daily water extraction at Fort Franklin.  Chairman Dean was quoted as saying "it is appalling," but then he said "we can't say it is from water extraction" and "we defer to government agencies that oversee water extraction."

Here's the problem  Supervisor Dean left a message on a resident's voice mail several months ago, saying that the zoning officer was "drafting a cease and desist order."  The zoning officer issued a notice of violation in 2015 due to Land's company not filing a Land Development Plan, via certified mail. Water tankers believed to have left the Fort Franklin site in October and November 2016 have damaged public property on multiple occasions.  West Penn Township conducted an engineering study of its roads in 2015, which determined that the road tankers are using to leave the site, Blue Mountain Drive, should be posted with a 15-ton limit.  Tankers of a 48+ ton capacity have been observed leaving the site, and these tankers require a PA DOT and West Penn permit that is site specific to do this.  It is believed they do not have these permits.

So let's see, Mr. Chairman.  You would like "someone else" to step up to the plate, even though your roads are being abused, your guardrails destroyed, motorists have been placed in harm's way, and the required land development plan never submitted.  And vehicles believed to not be permitted using your roads.  Those all fall into your lap.  This time last year, Mr. Dean, your Board held a public hearing to discuss a road weight limit and bonding oridinace.  The solicitor told the public that new land development plans would require a road impact study.  This sounds great, but it is all talk and no action.  What happened to that ordinance, Mr. Dean?  Why is Mr. Bogosh now saying a land development plan isn't needed, and what comment does the zoning officer have about it?  The same one that issued a notice of violation for not filing the same?  This is horse shit.

Here's a newsflash, Mr. Dean.  The DEP has been ignored by Mr. Land's companies for years.  Go to this link at the Environmental Hearing Board to see the evidence.  He told the DEP he would be supplying spring water from the Pine Valley (Kepners) site, and he would treat it with an "ozinator".  DEP filed multiple violation notices, and the ozinator sits in the parking lot unused.  You have to treat water if you are selling it to be bottled as spring water.  They filed a complaint he was not maintaining the required bypass water volume in a creek, and he responded by saying he shouldn't have to.  The DEP says he is supplying raw water, which only a bottler who owns the site can do.  But he isn't a bottler.  So now he's in court, arguing he doesn't need to comply with all these regulations.  He wants to write his own regulations.  See, he wants to sell that raw water so he doesn't need to file reports of the quality of the water.  Here's another factoid - if he ozinates the water, it turns bromide to bromate - which causes cancer.  The more bromide your water has, the more likely this will happen.  The DEP has been "trying" to regulate him for years.  Since 2007 at various sites.  And it hasn't worked.  It should be noted that Mr. Land was in law school with Katie McGinty, Secretary of the DEP from 2003 to 2008. What the hell is the DEP going to do to regulate the new site on Fort Franklin Road???  How hard have they really been trying to regulate him?  Have they?

By the way, if you read between the lines, you can see Mr. Land's intent is to abandon the Pine Valley (Kepners) site and shift his entire operation to Fort Franklin Road.  The landowner at Pine Valley and he are at odds, and in fact the landowner filed a complaint with the DEP against his operation because he is drying up the surface water.  The lease expires within a few years.  Recently, the land owner even cross filed a complaint against Land in the civil lawsuit by residents of WPT.  Supervisors, get this straight - Mr. Land is rumored to be planning to run up to 100 (one hundred) trucks a day out of Fort Franklin, each way.  The problem of Mr. Land's company only shipping water from WPT is turning into Mr. Land's company sucking your resident's water source dry AND beating the hell out of your roads AND making them unsafe.  Talk about fiddling while Rome burns - West Penn supervisors have this down to a science.

Mr. Dean and Mr. Bogosh should wake up out of whatever state of euphoric crapulence they are in.  Are they playing politics?  If so, it's a dangerous game.  They were put on notice at least as far back as May 2015 that tankers can't leave Blue Mountain Drive for Route 309 without creating a hazardous situation.  In November 2015, resident Judy Russo reported she saw a tanker departing Blue Mountain Drive cross over into oncoming traffic on Route 309 in a dangerous maneuver.  Video this past month shows a high speed accident almost occurred when a loaded tanker blocked the entire 4 lanes of Route 309, turning to go south.  As soon as the cab crossed back over the double line, vehicles in both northbound lanes sped past.  Still pictures show tankers have crossed totally over the double line on Blue Mountain Drive, sitting stopped waiting to pull out onto Route 309.  This could prove fatal to a vehicle on 309 in either direction wishing to turn onto Blue Moutain Drive, and finding their lane blocked.  It is important to remember these are 40 to 50 ton trucks.  They aren't going to be making any quick moves to get out of the way, stop or do anything else.

Residents of West Penn should take no solace whatsoever in believing "someone else" will "step up to the plate" to make one of Mr. Land's companies do the right thing.  And based on the total inaction of West Penn supervisors, it is apparent they plan to continue to say "we're doing everything we can" while doing nothing at all.

Question for Mr. Dean

When the fuck do you step up to the plate?  Where is your "sketch plan" of what you intend to do, besides nothing?  Municipalities issue cease and desist orders routinely.  You told a resident one was being drafted in July.  There is plenty of justification for one towards the goal of exactly what you told me - protect the health safety and welfare of your residents which is your "highest priority".  When is the next election?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

West Penn resident active in fight to protect health safety and welfare against consequences of water extraction passes away

West Penn resident Ted (Theodore) "Doc" Luhowy Sr., 139 Fort Franklin Road, died early December 3rd, 2016 at his home.  Mr. Luhowy was 77 years old.

Ted was a leading voice in attempting to motivate West Penn supervisors to take proactive and now reactive steps to ensure that water extraction by Jay Land's companies does not continue to negatively impact the heath safety and welfare of residents.  Ted pushed for progress on posting and bonding of the roads, which supervisors inexplicably appear to have tabled after spending over $10,000 of taxpayer funds to study.  Now that Mr. Land has shown that his plan is to shift full blown production from his Pine Valley site down the road to the Fort Franklin site, it is more important than ever for the battle Ted was fighting to be pursued and won.  Despite his persistent efforts, the supervisors haven't done anything substantive to protect the health safety and welfare of their residents - their #1 responsibility.

This blogger met Ted only once, and corresponded several times with him.  He was passionate about this cause, unlike the supervisors of West Penn Township, who appear to have no concern whatsoever for their residents' welfare, their safety, or township property.

There are some very committed people involved in this fight, so Mr. Land should not assume that he is home free with Ted's passing.  There are other very dedicated residents and a lawyer who have been tracking his movements and business "model" for some time.  He's shoved the DEP around for several years, and the West Penn supervisors have done nothing at all to hold him accountable.  Mr. Land shouldn't toast yet to the thought of West Penn supervisors continuing to sit on their hands with their thumbs up their asses while he sucks 100s of thousands of gallons of non-permitted well water (not spring water) from the ground daily, compromises and pollutes neighbor's wells and ships his bounty offsite in an irresponsible and grossly unsafe manner.  His day will come.

My condolences to Mr. Luhowy's family, friends, and associates.  Ted's fight on Earth is over and his time for eternal rest has come - others will fill the void in the battle against Mr. Land's practices and follow in Ted's indelible footsteps.