Saturday, April 8, 2017

Is Synagro's new application to locate a biosolids crap bakery in Plainfield Township a "done deal" because it is a permitted use? Absolutely not.

Synagro emailed a press release to a couple of local reporters on Friday afternoon March 31 at about 3:30pm.  At this very same time, a new site plan was dropped off at Plainfield Township by a Synagro representative.  Perhaps the press release was emailed by this person as he departed the municipal building.  The press release stated that Synagro worked hard to relocate its plant in the Solid Waste zoning district, where it is a permitted use.  Of great interest to this observer is that this press release still has not been posted on Synagro's website - not in the general area for press releases or the page for this project.  They may have worked hard, but they didn't work smart.  You will marvel at how they squashed their plant into a slice of land too small for even a house, and a waste water treatment plant on one of the only small areas not fully containing steep slopes at the southern boundary.  Perhaps not being proud of the result explains why this new plan is not advertised on Synagro's website.  And perhaps there is a more sinister explanation.
"I heard Synagro filed an application for a building permit.  Does this mean they are "in" and will start building soon?  Preposterous.  One Plainfield Township procedure that initiates a Site Plan review is to file a form titled "Building Permit Application," which results in a Zoning Officer response.  Synagro didn't do this for its first application - it chose to try to slam its Site Plan through by filing on the deadline and simply showing up and attempting to get planning commission approval in one night. They did this time however - and it may be that they were hoping for what is called "deemed approval" if the zoning officer fails to respond in 15 days.  The first thing that happens if your use requires a Site Plan approved is the zoning officer responds with a rejection letter indicating he can't issue you a permit..  A building permit isn't even in the picture until the Site Plan is approved.  If Synagro were to ever obtain approval from Plainfield, they then would have to get permits from DEP and Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and a building permit.  Nobody's building as much as a tree fort any time soon.
This is a portion of the form Synagro filed - this will generate a denial of building permit
letter from the Zoning Officer and cause the Site Plan to be put on the schedule for review

Here is an artist's depiction that includes both the initial site as well as the new one.  The first site required two use variances - one for multiple uses and one for a non-permitted use, and a third variance (dimensional) because the area proposed is less than required.  Note that the two sites are adjacent to each other, and are separated by an old railroad bed (yellow area) that is owned by Plainfield Township. The railroad bed divides the Commercial Industrial and Solid Waste zoning districts in Plainfield Township.

Artist's rendering of Synagro's two crappy proposals

Location relative to zoning districts and tax parcels

Below is one sheet of Synagro's new site plan, and it depicts a proposed berm that will keep cars, trucks, storm water runoff and such from falling into the Doney Quarry #2.  You can't tell in this particular diagram, but the parking lot for employees is located on a slope of over 70%. We'll see that later.

Sheet 2 of Synagro's March 31, 2017 Site Plan, with overlay of usable/unusable portions of proposed site

The zoning ordinance requires a five (5) acre lot for Synagro's use.  Note that only about 1.65 acres of 7.01 acres is accessible and/or usable in the proposed plan, and as a result Synagro's trucks will be taking a novel route across a new proposed footprint of the existing energy center property for loading and unloading.  Jesus H. C. (my dad's favorite expression RIP) - you can't even park one of Synagro's trucks on this postage stamp without blocking employees or other trucks from coming/going.  How do you wash a truck after it dumps its "load"?  While unloading, trucks will be sitting within the rear yard setback, as well as maneuvering back and forth on the neighbor's property.

This plan will require multiple variances in this observer's opinion - both use and dimensional variances.  Just because you are a permitted use does not mean you can waltz in the door slinging crap around some big shit shot.  The need for these variances will be detailed in a post tomorrow.  Simpy put, this plan is a pile of crap befitting transport in one of Synagro's sludge trucks - which if you look closely are depicted in the picture at the top.  This is fairly clear from just the diagrams above, without going into further analysis.  Your BS alarm should be sounding before cracking the ordinance open - mine did.  Pardon me sir, would you like a vomit bag while you browse?

Plainfield Township is to be returned use of its property after the landfill closes per a legally recorded agreement - something Synagro representative Jim Hecht recently stated he is unaware of.  Did Waste Management tell Synagro about the agreement?  More importantly, why didn't Waste Management approach Plainfield Township to discuss the agreement prior to allowing Synagro to pursue the new plan - which unlike the first plan requires use of township property that Waste Management (Grand Central) has committed to relinquish?  Mr. Hecht said Synagro plans to run its plant for long after the landfill's anticipated closure in roughly 2035, depending on the rate of disposal.  That may create a wrinkle, since the new plan would require continued use of Plainfield's property... more to follow.

Synagro is going nowhere with either of their site plans.  The new one is a Hail Mary Queen of Craps.  How a professional engineer could send the latest doo-doo out the door is beyond belief.  Perhaps Synagro believes that the groundswell of support from the community (which thus far consists of Wind Gap council remaining oddly silent, and Pen Argyl and Plainfield essentially voting against the proposal) will give planners and zoners cause to approve this "plan".  Luckily Plainfield Township has committed to fighting this project by hiring their Solicitor and as many experts as needed.  Plan C will likely be Plan A - after Plan B is exposed as being dung, Synagro may attempt to pursue the site where they are not a permitted use and where they really want to be.  And that will be fun if that is their plan.  Why Syngaro has not walked away from this project has a lot of people scratching their heads.  And Green Knight hasn't said what it is getting out of this deal that as a non-profit they should be returning to the communities of the Pen Argyl Area School District.  Green Knights' donations have dropped and it isn't clear what if anything they will be distributing to the communities in the future.

Why hasn't Wind Gap council joined Pen Argyl in objecting to Synagro's 400 ton per day biosolids crap bakery proposed for Plainfield Twp?

Synagro proposed it's crap bakery at the November 21, 2016 Plainfield Township Planning Commission meeting.  A few weeks later at its December meeting, the Plainfield Board of Supervisors voted to hire a solicitor and expert(s) to testify at an anticipated zoning hearing associated with Synagro's application.  In essence, Plainfield Township opposes the sludge plant without explicitly saying so - which it can't do.  Taking a pro or con stance would open the township to litigation and corrupt the review process.  The supervisors and town manager must appear to the public to be unbiased.

On the other hand, neighboring municipalities Wind Gap and Pen Argyl, each of which border the proposed sites (there are currently two, within a few hundred feet of each other) can take a stance.  Pen Argyl has done so - Mayor Mikal Sabatine and borough council wrote a letter dated March 1 addressed to the Plainfield Township Planning Commission in March, objecting to the project.
"[Our] primary concerns are, but not limited to, traffic from vehicles passing through the borough, odors, pollution, the impact to public health and quality of life"
The borough stated that it opposes the plant due to its effect on the borough and residents, as the proposed site is very close to the borough's boundary and residents' homes.
Pen Argyl Letter to Plainfield Township Planning Commission opposing granting Synagro biosolids a variance by Dick on Scribd

OK, Plainfield Township and Pen Argyl oppose Synagro's plan.  WTF is Wind Gap?

This blogger's question is where the hell is Wind Gap's letter?  Are they reluctant to express an opinion because Green Knight is currently pursuing a boondoggle to redevelop the Howard Beers property spanning Wind Gap, Plainfield and Bushkill Twp???   This project has more problems than Iraq.  Just recently, Wind Gap became aware of all the corners Green Knight is attempting to cut on this project, as its engineer wrote a lengthy letter addressing deficiencies.  Plainfield's consultants have as well.  Objectors to Green Knight's inexplicable continued support of Synagro would be well advised and served to attend the April 17 Plainfield Township Planning Commission meeting, where this abortion will receive the next in a series of reviews because of Green Knight's nonstop rejection of satisfying standards and unending requests for waivers.  You will see Green Knight member Peter Albanese in action and get a better flavor of the half-assed manner in which Green Knight operates.

Back to Wind Gap.  Your residents need to pressure your council into standing up for you, your quality of life, and your health and well being, and explicitly object to this project - if they have not already done so.  Pen Argyl and Plainfield Township have put their markers down, both on red - get the hell out of town Synagro.  Wind Gap can not stand idly be and remain silent.  And while you are addressing them, ask them if Green Knight has demonstrated in its handling of the proposed project on the Beers property that it is the kind of economic development partner Wind Gap deserves.  You simply must attend the April 17 Plainfield meeting, to see how Green Knight operates.  It is likely Synagro delayed to May's meeting so as not to be associated with the fallout of the Green Knight/Beers project.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Synagro announces it plans to operate Plainfield Township / Wind Gap / Pen Argyl biosolids sludge plant 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Hidey ho, neighbor - Pull up a chair and let's talk about shit

Tonight at the Plainfield Township Fire Hall Synagro hosted what was advertised as a "Q & A session".  Attendence was moderate but not overwhelming.  Synagro provided a panel of what apparently was at least half made up of employees, including project manager Jim Hecht.  There was one paid consultant.  In the audience were two representatives of Waste Management, including John Hambrose.  Carlton Snyder and Robert Cornman Jr of Green Knight were in attendance. Questions had to be submitted on index cards, avoiding what would have been a zoo. To Synagro's credit, most of the questions that were submitted appeared to be at least read out loud. Some answers were non-responsive.

This blogger was honestly not interested or concerned with hearing about the science of crap.  We know it smells, we know there will be fifty 20+ ton trucks a day arriving at and departing this facility, adding to the already overburdened Wind Gap and Pen Argyl corridor, and we know there is a hell of a lot of readily available farmland to spread it on. The intent of the panel seemed to be primarily to talk about the science of crap, so this blogger had to wait for the good stuff that was in between the lengthy orations about how shit is so great, the distinction between shit in the garden versus shit in the crapper, etc etc

A few highlights:
  • Synagro plans to operate 24/7 and process 400 tons of crap a day
  • Synagro plans one product only - Granulite.  Representative Hecht said this is primarily a "wholesale product".
  • There is a contract in place for Green Knight to receive payment from Synagro for waste energy, but neither Mr. Hecht or Mr. Snyder could say how much this crappy operation would benefit Green Knight per month ($$$) and in turn possibly local citizens if Green Knight chooses to pass some green on to benefit the community.
  • One question was how can Green Knight call itself a non profit, when in 2015 it had $3.8m in the bank, had revenues of over $1.8m, and distributed a paltry $20,000 to the community.   Excellent question and neither Mr. Snyder or Mr. Cornman stepped forward to answer it.  This blogger found out from The Foundation Center, a well known database of non profits, that they do not list Green Knight Economic Development Corporation in their "grant maker" database because they do not believe GKEDC's level of grant making is consistent with its net income. GKEDC is listed in the online free version of Foundation Center, but not the Professional version. Basically they list it as a non-profit, but do not believe it deserves to be one is what a representative stated after the technical team investigated the listing discrepancy.
  • Synagro is pursuing both its original Site Plan for the CI district, currently tabled, as well as its new site plan submitted March 31, 2017 to see which one "sticks" (this blogger's term).
  • Synagro claims it will not produce odors greater than those already present in the area.  Think about this folks - if this plant goes in, complaints about odors will result in Synagro and Waste Management pointing fingers at each other.  And..after the land fill closes,  Synagro will no longer have WM to hide behind.
  • There is a an agreement in place for Waste Management to return use of the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail to the township after the land fill closes - and the trail will be used by Synagro's trucks in the latest site plan filed.  Mr. Hecht said he is unaware of this agreement, but that "Synagro will not cease use of its plant after the landfill closes."  (Synagro will shift to natural gas for heat after the land fill stops producing the gas that the energy center turns into electricity and heat).
  • Jim Hecht reported that Synagro was approached by either Waste Management or Green Knight to pursue this project about 1.5 years ago, but he could not remember which.
  • Mr. Snyder's recollection after the meeting is that Waste Management brought the project to Green Knight after Synagro was already involved.
  • Mr. Hecht could not name one organization, such as the Chamber of Commerce, that supports this proposed plant.  He garnered several catcalls from the audience when he added that Synangro has been busy on its plans and not reaching out to the community.  You just could not make this shit up, people.
  • A few panel members insisted on not only answering a question that was asked, but droning on for minutes afterwards about why this project is good in theory - totally unrelated to the question asked.  They spoke as though they live in a bubble, totally unaware that community members have minds of their own and uniformly are in opposition to this project.


Snyagro is known to give Granulite away for free to whomever will take it.  With the tremendous amount of farmland in the area, think of the incentive for farmers to use a free fertilizer instead of paying for one.  How can Synagro afford to do this?  They get paid up front $85 to $120 a ton to haul this crap away as class B biosolids.  Getting paid for your raw product - not bad, eh?  Granulite could be coming to the farm next to your house soon.  Back er up!

Mr. Hambrose and Mr. Snyder entertained questions from audience members following the meeting, and this blogger observed that they both feel this project is the best thing since sliced bread, and are unphased (ie tone deaf) by the unified objections of the community, and total lack of support.

There most certainly is an agreement between Grand Central (Waste Management) to return use of land Synagro plans to drive trucks over, and which Plainfield Township owns, to the township when the land fill closes.  This will be a wrinkle since Mr. Hecht implied Synagro plans for the proposed plant to remain in operation for many years after the land fill closes:

Easement Agreement- Plainfield Township Recreation Trail- Grand Central-03.11.1997 by Dick on Scribd

Synagro's new Site Plan

We'll take a close look at the Site Plan later, and for now it will simply be posted without comment.  It is currently in the pipeline to be reviewed by the Zoning Officer and Township Engineer in preparation for the May 15 Planning Commission meeting.