Friday, August 4, 2017

August 4 update on Synagro's proposed biosilids plant in Plainfield Township (Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center)

It's been quite a whirlwind bromance for Synagro, which first appeared before the Plainfied Township Planning Commission in November 2016, with no notice to township residents.  Synagro was hoping to obtain approval in one night to site a 400 ton per day crap bakery in the township, on land owned by Waste Management (Grand Central Sanitary Landfill).  They would take waste heat from Green Knight's energy operation, and use it to dry sludge.  At least that is the guise under which they would operate - they would also have fuel sources of natural gas and methane available for when the waste heat is insufficient (for example, for decades after the landfill and energy center shut down).  Synagro's attorney Matthew Goodrich told the planning commission that Synagro's use fully complied with the zoning ordinance.  Despite shepherding by Green Knight and soon to be former planning commission member Robert Cornman, be granted preliminary approval, no vote was taken that night.  Mr. Cornman's plan to assist Synagro to slither into town unnoticed and skip off with a golden ticket died when it was discovered Synagro had no degree of certainty where it would dispose of 80,000+ gallons of waste water a day.  Once this project was revealed to the community, it quickly earned a very rare triple Golden Turd Award on this very site.

Flash forward to August 2017, and the November plan sits in the scrap heap of very poorly planned projects, because Synagro's use is not even permitted on the proposed site.  A second site was selected, where it is a permitted use, but there is insufficient space to construct a facility to conform to zoning.  Synagro's attorney Goodrich doesn't believe any variances are needed (he stated this on June 12, despite receiving a letter earlier that day indicating Synagro requires eight (8) zoning variances.  The communities of Pen Aryl, Wind Gap, Upper Mt Bethel Twp, Lower Mt Bethel Township have all officially objected to the proposed plant.  Washington Township has sent notice that their zoning officer will attend all meetings associated with the project to represent the township's interest.  In addition, Synagro's proposed alternate site requires that a portion of the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail be used as an access road and road frontage.  As of June 12, Synagro still couldn't say where it will dispose of its waste water, or exactly what its operating hours would be.  Simply put, Synagro has had its head up its ass for the duration of this entire haphazardly conceived proposal, and nobody is in favor of this plant except Synagro, Waste Management, and Green Knights.

Syngaro now has yet another significant obstacle in its path, which became clear on June 12, the day of the second site plan review (first meeting since Nov 2016, first night that the alternate site was reviewed).  Despite overtures to the contrary and legal threats by Synagro counsel Goodrich, Synagro can not be issued a conditional zoning permit for its operation - it must first obtain the required approvals from all regulatory agencies.  In this case, the most obvious ones are PA DEP and DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission)

On July 11, 2017, Synagro sent a letter to Plainfield Township, indicating (grudgingly) that Synagro would in fact go through the permit application and review process with the regulatory agencies prior to resuming pursuit of a zoning permit.  In the letter, Synagro counsel Goodrich laments the expense this may cost his client. As of August 4, neither DEP or DRBC has been approached by Synagro to discuss its proposed biosolids processiing facility.  A DEP representative interviewed today said that the initial step with DEP would not require a plan, but rather be informal and allow the Applicant to identify all permits needed.  Due to DEP staffing and review requirements, it would take 6 months or more for Synagro's proposal to obtain approval.  A DRBC representative said that the DRBC "has not been contacted since fall 2016 about a possible biosolids plant" in Plainfield Township when contacted today by this blogger.  It would take approximately 6-9 months for a proposed plant to be approved by the DRBC.

Perhaps Synagro counsel Goodrich should look in the mirror before grousing about costs to Synagro. The site plan reviewed in November 2016 must have cost over $10,000 to prepare - it was Goodrich's responsibility to review the zoning ordinance and if he did he should have readily seen Synagro's use was permitted elsewhere, not on the proposed site.  It's a solid waste use, and Plainfield has a solid waste district.  Um, where the fuck should the use be permitted, and where do you think it is in fact permitted? Do they have English courses in law school?  Goodrich's legal fees by this time have likely topped $10,000 as well.  Job... done.

As mentioned in a recent post, Synagro has also not pursued the variances it needs in order to obtain a zoning permit.  As of today, the township has not received a variance application.  What the heck is Synagro doing?  Are they biding time before acknowledging this dream has in fact died, or is everyone on holiday for the summer?  Why wouldn't they go and get the ball rolling with DEP if all it takes is an informal meeting?  Cold feet?  Feet stuck in the mud (or shit)?  Whatever they do, it appears that it will be at least six months before another public circle jerk takes place like the review meeting on June 12.

Synagro's plan is in troubled waters

Looming at the end of the line (apparently - only time will tell) for Synagro is eight zoning variances they simply can not prove the hardships required to be granted.  Mr. Goodrich may want to advise his client on this matter, if he is truly concerned about costs.  This blogger's guess is cost is no object, since Waste Management wants this very badly, and Waste Management is used to getting what it wants.