Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Synagro quietly announces trucking operations will take place an additional 25 hours weekly at proposed Plainfield Township facility

At the November 29, 2017 review of Synagro's sketch plan, Synagro representative Jim Hecht was questioned about operating hours, and hours trucks would enter and exit the site.  He was also questioned about the amount of space available for storage of raw material (piles of crap).  Mr Hecht did not seem totally comfortable with the questions, and appeared genuinely confused why they were being asked.

The reason the questions were asked is that beginning at least in April 2017 at a Q&A session hosted by Synagro, Mr. Hecht stated that trucks will enter and leave the site during the hours that Grand Central operates, 7am-4pm M-F and 7am-9am on Saturday.  The plant would run 24/7.

At 400 tons of raw product daily, a hell of a lot of crap would have to be stored so that processing could continue from 9am Saturday to 7am on Monday - almost 800 tons.  300 tons of water is removed from 400 tons of sludge, and beginning in November 2017 Synagro stated it would store and haul waste water off site. Why the concept of storage of both solids and liquids and operating hours was foreign to Mr. Hecht is a bit of a concern - it is obvious what the issue is.

After the November review, Mr. Hecht wrote a follow-up letter on December 12, 2017, confirming that the hours trucks would operate were as discussed at the November meeting, 7am-4pm M-F and 7am-9am Sat..  Here is the letter - but a warning - what he states in it changed by February's meeting.

At the February 2018 Land Development review of the latest and greatest Synagro plan, Mr. Hecht was questioned again about operating hours and his reply changed to 6am to 6pm M-S, six days a week.  Huh, so there was an issue.  Mr. Hecht is the "project developer"!

In the December letter, Mr. Hecht states that raw product will arrive "covered" and much is stated about odor control on site.  At the February 2018 meeting, it was admitted that the "cover" on incoming trucks is a tarp, which will not control odors during transportation on local roads.

Waste Management appears to be planning to not honor its commitment to relinquish use of the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail segment that it was graciously allowed to temporarily use by agreement in 1997.  What else will change by the time this proposal's review is complete?  The addition of 25 more hours that trucks will operate is a very significant detail - one that Mr. Hecht got wrong as recently as December 2017.

Time to refurbish Green Knight Economic Development Corporation - meeting its members' goals, but not the communities' or its stated mission

The Green Knight Economic Development Corporation came into being as a non-profit in 1999 because Waste Management could not convert its landfill gas to electricity and sell to the electric utility itself.

The plan for GKEDC's  Energy Center included the desire to sell waste heat to a business that would locate in the "Slate Belt Industrial Center" - a 19 acre plot that originally was to host three separate commercial operations and is today Techo-Bloc.  Green Knight likes to taut Techo-Bloc as a success but in reality was an embarrassing development failure that struggled to break even.  The Northampton County Industrial Development Authority chipped in money, but no tenants appeared, and certainly none that wanted to consume waste heat.  The only winner in this debacle was J.G. Petrucci, who swept in at the 11th hour and erected the building, and had one tenant (Techo-Bloc) wanting eagerly to move in to the entire site.  Instead of three sites sold, it was one, and there were zero customers for Green Knight's waste heat.

This is where Green Knight's surplus waste heat was to be delivered
Became Techo-Bloc after no one else was interested

Fast forward 17 to18 years, and Green Knight is spinning the arrival of Synagro's proposed crap bakery as the "culmination of a vision".  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The plan never included continuation of a waste processing operation on Waste Management's property, or to supply waste heat to such an operation.  The plan was to attract good businesses nearby, with significant numbers of good paying quality jobs.  Waste Management representative John Hambrose claims that Synagro will have engineer(s) on site.  Really?  A lone engineer at an outpost processing 400 tons of crap daily?  A small to medium-sized tech firm this is most certainly not. Would I want my son or daughter working there?  No, Mr. Hambrose, I would not.

Waste Management's director of landfill gas to energy Mark Messics said in 2001 that the selling of the Green Knight Energy Center's waste heat "would be gravy" over and above the profit of selling electricity to the grid.  Maybe no one at GKEDC or WM has noticed, but the communities affected and surrounding aren't interested in sucking up confiscation of Plainfield Township's property and putting up with odors and air pollution and reduced property values so that gravy can be made for Waste Management and GKEDC.
2001 quote of Waste Management landfill gas to energy director Mark Messics

GKEDC's charter called for a 9 member board, with members comprised of three residents from each of Pen Argyl, Wind Gap and Plainfield Township.  Today, there are eight members, one who lives in Wind Gap, two in Pen Argyl, and five in Plainfield Township.

Carlton Snyder (President)                          John Cuono
Wind Gap Resident                                         Pen Argyl Resident
Robert Cornman (Vice-President)               Larry Feller
Plainfield Township Resident                           Pen Argyl Resident
Peter Albanese (Treasurer)                         John Goffredo
Plainfield Township Resident                           Plainfield Township Resident
Steve Hurni (Secretary)                               Jim Policeli, PE
Plainfield Township Resident                           Plainfield Township Resident

If the charter is inconvenient, just change it
What happened?  First, about five years ago it was questioned that Peter Albanese was using an address he does not live at in Wind Gap to justify his representation of Wind Gap - although he lives in Plainfield Township.  To solve the issue GKEDC didn't do the right thing, but rather simply changed its charter so that if someone has a business interest in a community they "represent it".  That sounds like bull shit for a few reasons.

GKEDC board member solves business concern by resigning, not coming out against Synagro
Second, Stephen Ruggiero, who owns Ruggiero Funeral Home in Pen Argyl reportedly decided that promoting a crap bakery was not compatible with profitably operating a funeral home that brags about its clientele and standing in the community, and he resigned from the GKEDC board over a year ago.  Rumor is that no other Pen Argyl businessperson is interested in being associated with GKEDC's effort to site a crap bakery in the community's backyard - which is why there continues to be an 8 member board.  One representative for Wind Gap, two for Pen Argyl and five for Plainfield Township.

Wind Gap has only one resident GKEDC representative - another resigned for similar reason
John T Dally Jr, son of the former mayor of Pen Argy and Pen Argyl Area School Board member, was a long-time GKEDC member through at least 2016, but resigned.  John is a local real estate agent; and it is reported that he also resigned because he was concerned that association with the Synagro project would hurt his real estate business.  No shit, pun intended.

Think of an alternative, where GKEDC dis-invited Synagro, and Ruggiero and Dally Jr. would have rejoined or still be on the board, and it would have more equal but not equal representation .  Green Knights would have improved their standing in the community - not shit-canned it permanently.

GKEDC board is not listening to the communities
It is patently obvious that GKEDC's board is no longer representative of the community in any way shape or form.   Mr. Ruggiero and Mr. Dally Jr., apparently not out of allegiance to their community but rather their balance sheets, hit the road.  There is neither equal representation of each community, nor respect of the wishes of the communities.  No one wants the Synagro plant, except GKEDC, Waste Management and Synagro.  It's like GKEDC board members are deaf, dumb and blind.  They act as though residents are "missing the big picture" of tax revenue and jobs.  But that is not true - residents are not idiots.  16 jobs, the vast majority crap pushers, and $50,000 plus or minus tax revenue (but not to Pen Argyl or Wind Gap) is not worth it to the thousands who will be affected by the proposed plant.  Close neighbors will have to put up with odors and truck noise (Synagro just announced that truck activity will be 6am to 6pm six days a week, up from the operating hours of the dump).  Motorists will have to travel behind "tarped" trucks hauling shit, and even has Synagro admitted the odor will not be contained by tarps.  As solid waste management supervisor Tracey McGurk at DEP has stated "we may not be able to discriminate between odors from Synagro and Waste Management when complaints are received."  Residents will be affected and screwed, they know it, and they are saying 'no mas" to more solid waste processing.  It's very simple.

Why haven't members of Green Knight acknowledged the deep-throated and comprehensive rejection of Synagro's proposal by the community they supposedly exist to benefit?

Let's take a closer look at the GKEDC board.  It appears that members are appointed for life - unless they quit.  Three members, Robert Cornman Jr, Steve Hurni, and Jim Policelli are former members of Plainfield Township's Planning Commission.  Hurni and Policelli left the township board in the late 1990's, leaving Cornman to handle Waste Management and Green Knight's interests.  As chairman and member of the township planning commission, Mr.Cornman was uniquely positioned to be responsible for understanding and drafting amendments to the township zoning ordinance.  Very odd indeed is that in 1999 and again in 2016 he pushed for a non-permitted use (energy center in 1999 and Synagro plant in 2016) to be located where Waste Management's recycling area is currently located.  He knew in November 2016 (certainly after rejection of 1999's plan) that Synagro's use was not permitted where planned, and still pushed for the planning commission to approve the plan.

Mr. Policelli writes almost monthly letters to the Express Times, denying the existence of global warming.  Yet Green Knight awards scholarships to young people based on "environmental stewardship" according to the GKEDC website.  Mr. Policelli appears to believe in a flavor of environmental stewardship similar to Ms. Trudy Johnston when it comes to shit, and when it comes to the atmosphere that sustains our lives keep your regulations to yourself..  Policelli has never once in his letters to the Express Times identified himself at a member of GKEDC.

Mr. Hurni as a Plainfield Township supervisor has to maintain an unbiased position on Synagro's application, yet is rumored to have said to a neighbor "I don't see what all the fuss is about."  That speaks volumes.

Carlton Snyder has been president of GKEDC since 1999.  A retired electronics technician, whose most notable contribution to a lot of people seems to be his hat.  Mr. Carlton has said that GKEDC looked at certain factors before agreeing to partner with Synagro.  Did GKEDC ever consider the wishes, the welfare and well being of citizens?  The property values of those who reside nearby?  The fact that the current proposal is to take use of Plainfield Township's Recreational Trail for an unknown number of decades beyond what was intended to be use until the landfill closes?

John Cuono has run a Pen Argyl barber shop since taking it over from his father in 1963.  Unlike Mr. Ruggiero, it appears Mr. Cuono has no fear of losing business due to Green Knight's partnership with Synagro.  The relationship between a hair stylist and customers is a close one.  Or perhaps he dreams of retirement.  Cuomo is also the chairman of the Pen Argyl Sewer Authority, so he has a pre-existing condition with shit.  Well John, the shit has really hit the fan this time.

Larry Feller is a chemist, and don't question his usefulness - he is one of two Pen Argyl residents on the board - his mere existence provides Pen Argyl at least 67% of the representation it deserves.

Peter Albanese and John Goffredo both live in Plainfield Township, are both in contracting, and purportedly represent Wind Gap on GKEDC.  They show up at numerous Wind Gap meetings singing the praises of the Green Knight Industrial Park II.- the former Beers property where millions of tires were dumped.  Mr. Albanese is a principal in Wind Gap Electric, Mr. Goffredo is a principal of Nu Cor Management - a construction management company.  Green Knight's scheme at GKIP II was to buy the property for cheap, put a minimal investment into it to create roads and lots, and then sell lots and the buyer will have to develop his own lot.  The state and county have given grants and loans of millions of dollars to assist the project.

GKEDC members associated with contracts at both the Energy Center and YMCA
Let's rewind.  When the Green Knight Energy Center was built, Goffredo's family company MSG Associates Inc did the construction, and MSG Associates was affiliated with John Goffredo's Nu Cor Management at that time.  Wind Gap Electric did the electrical work on the energy center.

When the YMCA was built, funded by a grant of $1m by Green Knight and more by the state, guess who did the electrical work?  Yes, Wind Gap Electric.  Guess who did the construction?  Nu Cor Management.  All in the Family - sweet.  Was the YMCA project competitively bid?  This article says that John Goffredo was "asked" to be involved in the YMCA project - hmm.

On the GKEDC website, it is stated that GKEDC does everything possible to use local labor and provide local firms.  It also states the Directors do not receive compensation.  Hmm.  If I sit on the board, and my company gets a contract to work on a GKEDC project, am I receiving compensation?

Rumor is that John Goffredo has made it known he would be interested in his company participating in building out the infrastructure of the Green Knight Industrial Park II.  Let's hope that since state and county dollars are involved, that the job will be competitively bid.  Did that happen with the construction contract for the energy center?  The electric contract for the Y?

Here is what Green Knight Economic Development Corporation tells the IRS its mission is, every year when it submits its required 990 form:
Peter Albanese states his address is Wind Gap - it is not.  It also is not Wind Gap Electric's address

"Provide economic relief for poor and distressed citizens" is the mission according to the 990.  On their website, it states that the mission is to "provide help to local organizations."  Let's look at the relief and help that GKEDC has given recently.  Here are their grants for the last four years, as reported to the IRS:

* Scholarships are estimated to be 12 running concurrently, at $1,000 a year each per cumulative data on the GKEDC website ($200,000 over 17 years)

That's some support, but it pales in comparison to what took place before around 2011.  It used to be that GKEDC would issue grants for 20 to 25 causes a year, with about $5000 going to each and over $100,000 distributed annually.  Like equipment and uniforms for school teams where a youngster's family could not afford them, as well as a host of other causes.  $32,000 to $37,000 a year in grants and scholarships seems reflective of GKEDC transitioning to another mission - commercial development that could possibly benefit their own board members if the chips fall right.  $133K total giving in four years is pocket change on $7.1m in revenue.
Graphic based on picture found in GKEDC website
In 2006 there were over 15 grant recipients - in recent years, there have been one or two
In 2007, grants were made to 11 recipients in Wind Gap alone, $97,000 plus scholarships for approximately $109,000 - approaching the entire four-year total from 2013 to 2016

Perhaps GKEDC has also changed the mission in its charter .  No one has seen a copy of the charter, but GKEDC states each year that its governing documents are "available to the public".  Perhaps it is time for someone to inspect said documents - before the charter is changed to make them private.

Green Knight's governing documents are stated to be available for public inspection
but the charter is as elusive as President Trump's tax returns...

GKEDC (and WM) acting like past didn't happen and commitments do not matter
Why is it that all the people on GKEDC and the people at the landfill (Scott Perin and his father Nolan who have both attended Synagro's review meetings) are not admitting that Waste Management's agreement to temporarily use the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail was to expire when the landfill closes?  Not a single one has been heard to utter this in public.  The expectation appears to be that Plainfield Township will stand idly by and let its land be absconded.

Why is it that GKEDC is not acknowledging that the plan was never to extend the life of waste processing on the WM property?  The plan was to close the landfill, recover the area as green space.  Instead, they are participating in attempting to partner with Synagro, and costing Plainfield Township residents likely well over $100,000 already in legal and consulting fees to do what Green Knight should have done for free - fought this proposal.

It is said that portraits of the GKEDC members hang in the Energy Center.  Can you imagine?

Who will get the contracts to build the Synagro facility if it is approved?
Should residents even have to concern themselves with this question?  Green Knight casts itself as a champion of local firms and local labor, but who benefits from these contracts?  Is a construction contract going to "trickle down" to the ambulance company, the Boy Scouts, the fire company, the bugle corps?  No - it is going to mostly benefit the contracting company owners.  The benefit to "poor and distressed" citizens comes not from temporary jobs, but from direct contributions as GKEDC did in the past.

Moving forward together, not as Dictator and Subservient residents 
It is evident that Green Knight is not fulfilling its charter, and it is not acting in the best interest of the residents of the Pen Argyl, Wind Gap and Plainfield Township communities.  These changes are needed:
  1. Tell Synagro sorry, but the community doesn't want us to partner with you, and besides, selling the waste heat was seen as "gravy" on top of profit according to Waste Management.  The community does not want a poop train in return for Waste Management and GKEDC's gravy train.
  2. Return to the original mission of benefiting poor and distressed citizens.
  3. Distribute funds to more causes each year, as was done previously.
  4. Institute term limits.  
  5. Represent each community equally as was originally prescribed.
  6. The Plainflield Township Board of Supervisors and Pen Argyl and Wind Gap Borough Councils should appoint their community's municipal representatives on GKEDC, not be left with a bunch of self-appointed and self-serving yahoos.
  7. Open GKEDC board meetings to the public. 
  8. Require a competitive bidding process for any development projects, regardless of the funding source.
  9. Stop issuing contracts to companies associated in any manner with GKEDC.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Conflict of interest plagues Pen Argyl's consultant choice to fight Synagro/Waste Management/Green Knight biosolids plant in Plainfield Township

At the April 4 Plainfield Township planning commission review of Synagro's proposed crap bakery on land owned by Waste Management, in association with Waste Management's purported non-profit arm Green Knight Economic Development Corporation, appeared representatives for Pen Argyl in opposition to the project.  This included Solicitor Peter Layman of Bangor, and environmental consultant Trudy Johnston, President of Material Matters Inc in Elizabethtown.

Peter Layman and Trudy Johnston, representing the Borough of Pen Argyl
in opposition to the proposed Synagro biosolids plant

Some in the audience took note when a representative for Synagro and Waste Management suggested that Ms. Johnston is acquainted with Synagro's planned use.  It turns out that Ms. Johnston is intimately familiar - her company's website states its specialty:
Material Matters offers a range of services relating to all aspects of wastewater solids and residuals beneficial use, including product management, process optimization, demonstration trials and research studies, regulatory permitting, and regulation compliance. 
Hmm.  Let's look deeper to see if this funny smell gets worse.  In a September 3, 2010 Times News article, it is reported that Johnston and fellow employee Jennifer Callahan requested to appear at a Schuylkill County board of supervisors meeting and
distributed literature which presented a highly favorable perspective regarding the use of biosolids when, in fact, the use of such sludge is seen as controversial and a potential threat to health and safety.
Highly favorable perspective from Ms. Johnston on the use of biosolids?  This smells like crap alright.  Here is another odorous sample:


At time stamp 00:10 in the video above on the Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association's YouTube channel the speaker indicates Johnston is the president of MABA's board of directors, and the video is dated July 19, 2017.  Wow, the president of this as well as her company - she's the belle of the Brown Stink Ball.  Take note of her enthusiastic manner as she speaks to the shift in public perception of shit through a change of terminology from "sludge" to "biosolids".   Trudy gets shit done, but it seems like she may be enamored with it.  Here is the 2016 Form 990-EZ that MABA files as a non-profit, dedicated to the dissemination of sludge.  Look on page 2, and you will see that in the list of officers Ms. Johnston is at the top of the heap - the president:

Mid Atlantic Biosolids 2016 Form 990EZ on Scribd

Then there is this promotion of the whimsically named Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center, from President Johnston's MABA's website (emphasis added):

Jesus H Christ this looks bad, to use an expression of my father's.  Now let's put it all together, using the sponsor brag from the Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association website, with a suggested future entry:

Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association Sponsors for 2018 includes Johnston's Material Matters, Waste Management, and Synagro - Add Green Knight and you have four of a kind!

Green Knight may be the next sponsor to add to this rarified list.  After all, Green Knight for the past five years has had plentiful income but almost eliminated donations to social service organizations - contrary to Green Knight's mission statement.  Yes, they gifted the Blue Mountain Library $10,000 in emergency funds recently, but in the past they would spread over $100,000 in one year to 25 to 30 causes, at $3000 to $4000 each.  They could easily come up with $5000 to give MABA, which they would likely consider a good cause.  Now they appear to be focused on commercial development, and handing opportunities to their own board members to cash in on GK's "philanthropy".  A non-profit tracking agency determined that Green Knight Economic Development Corporation does not meet its criteria as a charitable organization after reviewing GKEDC's IRS Form 900 statements and does not list it in their database, according to a reply to an inquiry as to its absence.  More on Green Knight in a future post.

Holy shit Batman!  What the hell is going on here?  Johnston's entire agenda is to make shit smell better, and spread it as far and wide as possible.  She rubs elbows with Synagro and Waste Management, on the short list of sponsors of the organization of which she is president.  This is who is helping protect Pen Argyl from having a biosolids facility move in next door?

Mr. Layman was the Plainfield Township Solicitor in 1997 when the Trail Agreement/Easement was negotiated with Waste Management.  This agreement turns out to be very weak, in that the end date of Waste Management's use - which was the justification for the agreement - is not directly tied to the landfill shutting down.  Mr. Layman may not appreciate his name being associated with it, but facts are facts.  If the agreement had been drafted properly, Synagro's plant on the proposed site would not even be a possibility, and Plainfield's residents would not be fighting for the right to use their own property as the agreement calls for - in a timely manner, not several decades from now.

Pen Argyl council members may want to reconsider this arrangement.  Johnston should paying Pen Argyl - one can imagine however she is collecting a consultant's fee.  Sweet.  Johnston may be out having lunch with the opposing parties, and there is no code of conduct that regulates such a consultant's disclosures.  Hey guys, I'll buy today.  WTF.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Waste Management continues to bully Plainfield Township into granting approval for Synagro crap bakery while Green Knight Energy Center operates in violation of approved development plan

At tonight's Plainfield Township Planning Commission review of Waste Management's land development application, the latest in a 1-1/2 year long string of bids to locate a crap bakery in the township, the Applicant's attorney Elizabeth Witmer will be in an interesting position.  Witmer is a land use specialist, and at the November 2017 review of Synagro's site plan she stated emphatically that the Applicant intended to file a Land Development application that would comply with the township ordinance and "not require any variances".  The township Zoning Office determined that at least four variances are needed, including a use variance because this use must be located along an arterial or major collector road.

In a post earlier this date, it was reported that Waste Management and Robert Cornman Jr (Green Knight representative and former Plainfield Township planning commission member and chairman) knew full well in November 2016 that a biosolids use was provided for in the SW solid waste district and not permitted in the CI commercial industrial district, due to a highly publicized failure in 1999 to obtain a variance to locate its own energy center in the same location, yet they still pursued leasing this location to Synagro.  That's called bad faith - were they hoping the township "wouldn't notice"?  (Suggested answer: YES)

A few members of the planning commission quizzed Witmer on this point, because no Applicant files a land development plan unless all zoning issues have been resolved.  Witmer stressed that no variances will be required.  In short, it is a waste of time and resources to review how a development will satisfy storm water management when (for example) there is no way to get vehicles on and off the site.  This is exactly the situation at hand.  The Land Development Plan does not comply with the ordinance as Witmer pledged.

Purpose of tonight's review meeting - does anyone know?
In previous letters and oration at reviews of this proposal, Synagro's legal beagle Matthew Goodrich has stated that in no uncertain terms Synagro expected a zoning permit, deserved a zoning permit, and that the township has to issue a zoning permit.  This despite the township reminding him on multiple occasions that Synagro ain't getting no permit until requirements are met - which includes variances and regulatory approval.
One might fairly ask what the purpose of tonight's meeting is, since as of 11am today no Zoning Hearing Board application for variances associated with this plan have been received by Plainfield Township. Use variances are granted in about 10% of cases, so if road access is not resolved, this project is not happening.  Synagro and Waste Management will want to talk about how they recently filed for DEP and NPDES permit, but who the hell GAFF when they can't drive to and from the site?

In the narrative accompanying Synagro's October 2017 site plan submission, Synagro stated that approvals were granted the Green Knight Energy Center in 1999 and a 2001 revision, and Witmer emphasized during the November review that Synagro intends to rely on those approvals.  The only problem with this plan is her statement is incorrect - there is no approved 2001 revision.
False statement that the 1999 Green Knight Energy Center land development plan was amended in 2001 - the 2001 plan's conditional requirements were never met by Green Knight Energy Center and a conditional approval expired in 2002. 

The narrative in the February 2018 Land Development plan submission curiously deletes the reference to the 2001 revision:
Waste Management's Feb 2018 narrative no longer boasts about as lengthy a list of approvals, or mentions the driveway (wonder why...)

Contents of the recorded 1999 plan and its 2001 defunct proposed revision
The 1999 approved and recorded Energy Center plan states that access to the site will be via Pen Argyl Road, a major collector. Since access was to the east along Pen Argyl Road, the front yard was chosen there.  This is important, since it allowed a lesser side yard setback along the township trail, and did not force the proposed access drive into the existing quarry.  Note 12 specifically states that access will be via Pen Argyl Road, yet when the Energy Center was built, access was created across Plainfield Township's trail onto GCSL's private haul road - in violation of the recorded plan.  Note that in reality, the 1999 plan depicts an access drive that actually "tees" at the private haul road and does not extend across it to Pen Argyl Road.  How the hell did Mr. Robert Cornman Jr's planning commission ever even approve this plan?  Note 4 indicates that a PENNDOT highway occupancy permit is required for access to Pen Argyl Road - was this ever obtained, was it denied due to limited site distance, etc and is this why "as-built" was different?

1999 Recorded and official Land Development Plan for Green Knight Energy Center

Green Knight came back to the township in 2000 and proposed a revised plan, with access now to be "as built".  Plainfield Township was concerned that now it was proposed to use the Township Trail, and the Township Solicitor recommended the trail easement agreement be modified with this use in mind, in addition to other conditions for approval.  None other than Robert Cornman Jr, in his role as Green Knight representative, signed off on April 11, 2001 on an agreed list of conditions which must be met within one year in order for this revised plan to be approved (at bottom of this post).  This never occurred - whoopsie - breakdown of communication with himself?  In the proposed revision, note that now the Access Drive in the 1999 plan is now labelled "Alternate Access Drive", the text in 1999's Note 12 is retained, and in Note 11 we see that the "approved" access location will be retained "if the trail agreement expires".  In such an event, the access drive to Pen Argyl Road that was approved in 1999 would be built.
Proposed & defunct 2001 revision of Land Development Plan for Green Knight Energy Center

Synagro, Waste Management and Green Knight are all up Shit Creek without a paddle.
  • Green Knight Energy Center is operating in violation of its approved Land Development Plan - a legally binding document
  • The 2001 revision is scrap since it was never signed, expired and was never recorded.
  • Green Knight Energy Center traffic is travelling across Plainfield Township land, not provided for and in violation of the 1997 trial easement agreement
  • Note 11 of the proposed revised plan acknowledges that the trail agreement may expire (eg when the landfill closes) and at said time access via Pen Argyl Road would be uses to access the Energy Center.  This would cover, for example, the 2 to 3 year period during which the last gas from the landfill is converted to electricity.
This evening's meeting should be a real hoot.  It will be interesting to see if Ms. Witmer takes the same position she did in November - everything is fine, our plan is in compliance, Waste Management and Synagro are here for recommended approval tonight - anything less is unacceptable.  Whatever... you're being paid handsomely, say whatever floats your boat.

Conditional approval for 2001 LD plan signed by Robert Cornman, Jr on behalf of Green Knight

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Plainfield Township ex-planner has history of ignoring zoning ordinance to grease skids for Waste Management/Green Knight Economic Development Corporation

On Wednesday April 4, 2018 at 7pm the Plainfield Township Planning Commission will meet to review the Land Development Plan to locate a Synagro biosolids crap bakery on land owned by Waste Management.  In the room, as he has been for every meeting thus far, will be Green Knight vice chairman and Synagro crap bakery project representative Robert Cornman Jr, who is also an ex-Planning Commission member and  its long time chairman.

When Synagro first slithered silently into Plainfield Township in November 2016 with its proposal, Cornman was still a Planning Commission member.  Despite stating he was recusing himself, he participated in discussion and suggested multiple times at the November 2016 review of Synagro's proposal that it be given conditional approval that evening to locate on a parcel in the Commercial Industrial (CI) zoning district.  It was subsequently discovered that Synagro's use was not even a permitted in the location proposed, and therefore it would require a use variance.  Without any hardship, it would be impossible to obtain a use variance.
November 2016 Synagro Site Plan, with proposed plant location in gray area
north of haul road in CI zoning district (North is to right side of screen)
Planner Robert Cornman Jr suggested this site plan be granted conditional approval

Planning Commissions are responsible per the Municipalities Planning Code for maintaining and updating a municipality's zoning ordinance.  As the long time commission chairman, Mr. Cornman was uniquely positioned out of all township citizens as the single best authority on the township's zoning ordinance.  As it turns out, since July 1, 1988  Synagro's use was permitted in the Solid Waste District.  One should ask, is it possible that Mr. Cornman did not know this, and actually encouraged approving this use to be located in a district where it is not permitted.

Let's pause briefly to note that in 1988 an extensive Solid Waste addendum to the township's comprehensive plan was adopted, to plan for responsible and strategically located solid waste uses.  Immediately, Zoning Ordinance amendment 192 was adopted, which provided for six (6) uses by right in the Solid Waste district, including a material separation facility (Synagro's use) and a landfill gas to energy plant (Green Knight Energy Center).  This list of uses has not changed nor where they are permitted since 1988.

As it turns out, both Mr. Cornman and Waste Management were very much aware in November 2016 that a use related to Solid Waste could not be located on the site in question, because 17 years earlier Mr. Cornman, while he was Planning Commission Chairman, attempted unsuccessfully to shepherd on behalf of Waste Management another Solid Waste use into the same precise location!

In 1999, Waste Management applied for a use variance to locate the Green Knight landfill gas to energy plant in the CI zoning district.  Here is a site plan that was submitted with the application:
1999 proposed location of Green Knight Energy Center, in CI zoning district in exact same location as 2016 proposed Synagro plant - same shit different year.  Planning Commission chairman Robert Cornman Jr testified at the ZHB hearing on the alleged economic benefit while ignoring the fact the was no hardship to justify a variance - which was his responsibility to know.

Planning Commission under Chairman Robert Cornman Jr recommends Waste Management be granted a use variance, despite there being no hardship

Several objectors testified at the zoning board hearing for the variance.  Pen Argyl was represented by attorney John Molnar, who showed that the proposal was counter to the 1988 comprehensive plan, as well as the zoning ordinance, and that extensive cost and effort had recently been put into updating both documents to accommodate Solid Waste uses.  Yet Robert Cornman Jr totally ignored both the spirit and letter of the zoning ordinance that as a planning commission member and chairman he was obligated to uphold for all land owners of the township.

Planning Commission chairman Robert Cornman Jr puts the good word in for
Waste Management - recommending approval to place the energy center outside the Solid Waste district, in total disregard of the Ordinance and a clear conflict of interest.
Ever hear of a designated hitter batting for both teams?

The Zoning Hearing Board did the right thing - they went through the five criteria for a variance, and found that Waste Management had no hardship whatsoever.  "Benefit to the community" is not a hardship.

Zoning Hearing Board facts and findings in case of Waste Managment's attempt to violate Plainfield Township's zoning ordinance - with Robert Corman Jr's blessing.  The ZHB was not swayed.

The township supervisors did the right thing by kicking Mr. Robert Cornman Jr to the curb, and he should never be reappointed to the planning commission.  Ethics requires a municipal official to put aside their own desires and outside special interests, and promote uniform and unbiased adherence to local laws and regulations.  There is a rumor that he submitted a letter of interest to be appointed back onto the commission in Jan 2018 - the size of those balls are impressive indeed.

Footnote: the five criteria enumerated above in the Facts Findings of the 1999 variance are the same criteria which would have to be met by Waste Management/Synagro in order to be granted the variances that are needed for the Synagro plant to be approved.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Synagro and Waste Management proposal in deep sh!t at Plainfield Township crap bakery site

On February 23, 2018, Synagro (under the veil of Grand Central Sanitary Landfill) filed its latest proposal to site a crap bakery on Waste Management's land adjacent to the Green Knight Energy Center.  Virtually all of the surrounding communities supervisory bodies are opposed to this project, and Plainfield Township is strongly opposed, yet Synagro persists - with Waste Management's blessing.  Why doesn't Waste Management tell Synagro "We care about the community, so take your shit elsewhere"?  The answer must be that Waste Management values $$$ a lot more than being a good neighbor in the community.  Sad.

In the past few weeks, three reviews of the proposal have been filed:
  • Zoning Office review
  • Township engineer review
  • Environmental consultant review
In the township review letter are strong zoning and legal reasons this project will not be able to be sited where proposed.

As a bookkeeping matter, it was learned on March 13 that Synagro has applied for the following permits:
  • NPDES Stormwater/site discharge
  • DEP Solid Waste
  • DEP Air Quality
Apparently, it was the township being notified of these permit applications that caused the March planing commission review meeting to be postponed to April 4, or it was a huge coincidence that both occurred on March 13 - two days prior to the scheduled meeting date.

 Synagro's DEP permits are in motion - like a bowel movement.  They are in the cart...

If Synagro can not meet the zoning, it will not mean diddly squat that they applied for permits through regulatory agencies.  As we shall see, they put the cart before the horse in this process and may have their asses handed to them.  You don't file a land development application before obtaining any needed variances, but in each review Synagro has steadfastly denied it needs variances although the township found that they do.  Now they are forging ahead, attempting to bully their way into the hearts, noses and water supply of area residents. "Hey look, we applied for regulatory agency permits!"  Impressive, but,you don't have legal road access to your site.  Let's take a look at the current reviews to see where the proverbial shit has hit the fan.

First, here are two site plan sheets and truck movements that are pertinent to the reviews:
 Site plan sheet C03
Site plan sheet C17 
Truck turns sheet C03

Next, here is the recorded 1999 Land Development Plan for the Green Knight Energy Center or LGFTE Plant - a document critical to the success or defeat of this application:
1999 GKEC recorded land development plan showing access via Pen Argyl Road
But instead it was built across the township trail.  Uh oh! Lucy got splainin to do, Lucy!

Here is the Plainfield Township Zoning Office's review:

As you read through, here are some highlights of what the Zoning Office found:

  1. The portions of the overall 12 acre lot dedicated to Synagro (5 acre min) and Green Knight Energy Center (3 acre min) must be delineated.(the entire 12 acres is incorrectly labelled "Synagro Operations" on the site plan - there are two uses on the lot, permitted in this district) 
  2. Internal access roads must be shown, instead of assuming trucks will randomly be driving through parking areas.
  3. Variance #1 The site is not on a collector or arterial road as required 
  4. Variance #2 The proposed improvements will be within 50' of a pond, not permitted.
  5. A study should be done on the current, cumulative and future effects of adverse impacts of activities associated with the proposed use (the PA Environmental Rights Act, passed decades ago, was just recently interpreted and upheld up by the PA Supreme Court in a fracking case)
  6. An analysis must be done to show that no odors will leave the site (how does one do this with an active landfill running?)
  7. The capacity of the raw shit storage area in tons must be specified.
  8. Grand Central's haul road is within the 80' ultimate right of way of Pen Argyl Road (a major issue if Pen Argyl Road is widened)
  9. Pedestrian access within the site is across access drives - what could go wrong?
  10. Variance #3 The parking area aisle width is 24' instead of 25'.  Really?  They couldn't find one measly foot?
  11. Variance #4 The parking places should be paved and marked as required in the ordinance.
  12. Truck turns are in conflict with each other.  In the truck turns diagram, trucks on the west (left) side of the energy center travelling in opposite directions can not pass each other.  This may require another Variance to Sec 704 (F) of the ordinance, which states that loading/unloading areas should not create a nuisance.  This issue and others was also highlighted by the township engineer, who had several comments about truck traffic and turns at Page 5 Items A6 (below).
There are two significant variances here, #1 and #2.  #3 and #4 seem trivial in comparison;

Now the doo doo really hits the fan - Green Knight Energy Center is in violation of its approved Land Development Plan, showing access from Pen Argyl Road which was never created

Scroll up and take a look at the recorded Land Development Plan for the Green Knight Evergy Center.  This is a legally binding document.  Look how carefully an access drive was to be constructed out to an entrance from a road, Pen Argyl Road, which is classified as a Major Collector.  Look at the red underlined text in Note 12, which states that access to the Energy Center will be from Pen Arygl Road  The Plainfield Township Recreational Trail was entirely avoided, even though a few years prior an agreement between the township and Waste Management allowed Waste Management to use the Recreational Trail in this area as a haul road for the landfill.  The access from Ren Argyl Road was never constructed, and instead access was created by blowing a road across the Recreational Trail on the west end of the Energy Center.  Talk about a bait and switch!  

Digression - Mr. Robert Cornman Jr. was on Green Knight and also the chairman of the Planning Commission which reviewed the 1999 Land Development Plan.  He also attempted to shepherd the Energy Center into a lot across Route 512 where it is not a permitted use - it was at that time and still is permitted only in the Solid Waste zoning district.  You would think he would remember that when Synagro came along and tried to pull a similar stunt 17 years later in November 2016, with his blessing. - he had the gall to both recuse himself AND suggest Synagro's plan should receive preliminary approval for a site not in the Solid Waste zoning district.  This man as Planning Commission chairman was in a position for many years where he was supposed to review and revise township zoning.  He has since been removed and should never be appointed again.  You don't turn your back on local laws that you are supposed to enforce for your own benefit.

In 2001, Green Knight applied to revise its Land Development Plan, but the revised plan never obtained final approval and thus was not recorded.  As part of that process, it was recommended that an agreement be created whereby Green Knight would relocate its driveway to where it is today using access across the trail, with the Township's approval and foresight into what would happen when the landfill closes.  Other conditions were to have been met, agreed to by none other than Mr. Robert Cornman Jr (see his signature in Exhibit A attached to the Zoning Office review above).  Since land development plans with conditional approval expire after one year, the 1999 Green Knight plan on file is the only one valid.  Green Knight is in violation of its plan, since vehicles accessing it are driving across Plainfield Township's land and not from Pen Argyl Road.

If Green Knight Energy Center can't use the Recreational Trail, neither can Synagro

Similarly, Synagro can't piggy back on Green Knight's approval to cross the trail, because that plan is not valid and Synagro has no inherited right to something that does not exist.

The review on April 4 should be interesting.  Synagro/Wast Management's attorney will proclaim that they have filed for regulatory permits and act like everything is great and they should be granted preliminary approval.  Unfortunately, when needed variances have not been obtained your site plan has deficiencies so no approval can be recommended.  Note that Preliminary and Final Land Development approvals are voted on by the supervisory body - the Board of Supervisors.  The Planning Commission is advisory only.

Here are the other two reviews:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Synagro/Waste Management Land Development and Site Plan review meeting in Plainfield Township postponed

The review of Synagro's Land Development and site plan (in the name of Waste Management) has been postponed from Monday March 19 to Wednesday April 4, 2018 at 7pm in the Roper Auditorium of the Wind Gap Middle School.

This is likely due to a delay waiting for reviews by the Zoning Department and the Township Engineer.  A Land Development Plan is extensive.  This application was submitted only 3 weeks prior to the meeting, which gives little time to conduct and publish a review in order for all parties to see it prior to the review meeting.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dedicated environmental steward Frank O'Donnell in community that defeated Nestle Waters passes away

Francis Z. O'Donnell Oct 14, 1936 - Jan 25, 2018

This blogger first visited an Eldred Township, PA Board of Supervisors meeting on December 2, 2015 to see firsthand how the community was progressing in its fight against would-be despot Nestle Waters.  Nestle had descended on Eldred Townshp in the dark of night, in hopes of wrestling the community's most precious natural resource (water) from it for the pittance of $30,000 per year.

As I settled into the back of the room, two apparent residents smiled in a welcoming manner.  This was surprising, because I had been warned that residents of this town received outsiders with some suspicion.  This stood to be even more true given that Nestle was seeking to victimize Eldred's citizens like a john takes advantages of whores.

These two citizens were Mr. Frank and Mrs. Marion O'Donnell.  Marion was more talkative than Frank, but the topic about to be discussed was obviously weighing on his mind.  It turns out that the seats that Frank and Marion occupied were their "usual" seats - they attended most board meetings.

I came to learn that Frank had been the Zoning Hearing Board chairman for many years, and also that he helped form and was the President of the Blue Mountain Preservation Association (BMPA) for many years.  The BMPA's initial goal was to fight a proposed race track on the Eldred Township side of the Blue Mountain - on land adjacent to the O'Donnell's property at Smith Gap.  As the fight against the race track progressed, efforts to enact zoning (finally!) in Eldred began, and also preservation of the 360 acre tract in question was envisioned.

Throughout the years, Frank's leadership and participation as well as Marion's constant support resulted not only in preservation of the tract, but increased awareness throughout the community of the importance of property rights for all landowners.  Eldred's zoning ordinance helped make possible the defeat of Nestle's plan in 2016, during which time Frank continued to serve as Zoning Hearing Board Chairman.

I was deeply saddened to learn that Frank (Francis) O'Donnell passed away January 25, 2018 at the age of 81.  It is dedicated individuals like Frank and Marion who are the backbone of a community - those that pick up the sword to fight the slow and steady good fight to preserve the quality of life residents value.  My condolences to Marion and Frank's family.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Synagro fined for sludge application violation in township opposed to Plainfield Township biosolids plant

Waste Management earned a Golden Turd award in February for the most recent application to locate a shit bakery in Plainfield Township. What was the name of that movie - "Same Shit Next Year"?  While previous applications were made by the operator Synagro, Waste Management is taking the dooky by the short hairs in a effort to obviate some legal hurdles and carry this turd over the finish line.

Oooh, that smell - can't you smell that smell?

It turns out the first Golden Turd of the year was prematurely awarded to Waste Management.- it should have been granted to Synagro. In one of several communities opposed to the Syangro plant (Pen Argyl, Wind Gap, Upper Mt Bethel Twp, Washington Twp, Lower Mt Bethel Twp and Plainfield Township) Synagro was found to have spread its shit on frozen ground on January 26 . This is a violation of Synagro's DEP biosolids application permit.

We're so responsible at Synagro that we spread shit on frozen ground

There's an old saying - don't shit where you plan to build a shit factory.  As of  March 9 the DEP website does not show it, but a reliable source reports there was a fine levied.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Synagro and Waste Management file new proposal for biosolids plant in Plainfield Township - same shit different year

Waste Management has always been suspected as wanting extremely badly to have the Synagro biosolids crap bakery added to northern end of its shitpile in Plainfield Township.   They put their shill "non profit" arm Green Knight Economic Development Corporation in the hotseat as the public relations face of the project initially, in a uniformly failed attempt to persuade citizens this is a great project for the community.  They have unmasked themselves - the latest submission to Plainfield Township filed on February 25, 2018 is in the name of Waste Management, not Synagro.

In the past few months Waste Management representatives John Hambrose and Adrienne Fors have been making visits to the board meetings at some of the many towns opposed to this project - singing the praises of crap to the choir.  WM is putting crap where its mouth is.  After a Synagro dog and pony show a year ago, Hambrose had the gall to ask why people wouldn't want "good engineering jobs" that come along with this project - implying this would be the case.  Yay, right John, how many?  One?  What engineer would shack up with a pile of shit - or do you use that title flexibly - is the shit slinger called an "engineer"?

The first Golden Turd award of 2018 goes to Waste Management - congratulations!  Don't let the shit go to your head - the year is young.

Here is a trip down memory lane of the tomfoolery that has transpired since Oct 2016 when this project was initially proposed in a zoning district that Green Knight VP and now former Plainfiield Twp Planning Commission member Robert Cornman Jr.knew full well it was not permitted in, but nonetheless promoted the project enthusiastically and suggested its approval (despite having recused himself) at the Nov 2016 Planning Commission meeting..  In fact, he was and is the Green Knight spokesperson for the project.  Can you say "corruption"?

The current proposal is to expand the Green Knight Energy Center lot to include Synagro on a 12.1 acre parcel, and for some odd reason Waste Management is calling the entire lot "Proposed Synagro Operations".  Multiple permitted uses on one lot is allowed in the Solid Waste district.  But what is proposed is two distinct uses, making crap and making electricity - stop trying to spread lipstick on crap Waste Management.

Blue shading indicated area included in Feb 2018
land development/site plan proposal

The current proposal is a land development plan, which includes a site plan.  The Planning Commission with review both on March 19 (see "Upcoming Events), after reviews are submitted by the township engineer and Zoning Office - expected approximately one week prior to the meeting.  It is odd that Waste Management is going straight to land development - usually an applicant has their Site Plan reviewed and corrects deficiencies and obtains variances, if needed.  Waste Management is clearly attempting to strong-arm Plainfield Township by pressuring them to declare variances are needed.  Based on reviews of previous Synagro Site Plans, it is a certainty that variances will be needed.

The Land Development submission includes a 19-page map package of site plans and detailed drawings, a 3-page package of truck turn diagrams, a 13-page project narrative, a steep slopes narrative, storm water analysis and data package, declaration by Waste Management, and a manufacturer's folder describing the crap dryer.  Several of these are shown below:

Project Narrative and land owner's declaration
Feb 2018 Site Plan Sheet C03 showing Green Knight Energy Center and Synagro on one lot

Feb 2018 Erosion and Sedimentation Plan Sheet C17

Feb 2018 Synagro plant truck movements

Feb 2018 Existing Conditions Sheet C08

Feb 2018 Synagro Truck Tipper detail Sheet C14

A few initial observations:
  • Waste Management may be taking the lead now in order to have to only move an existing lot line, instead of adding a lot.  This may allow them to do what is known as a "resubdivision" using the approved and recorded land development plan for the Energy Center.  That subdivision has a yard determination that is in conflict with the SALDO (subdivision and land development ordinance), and is desired by Synagro so that they can use only a 25' setback from the road when they must have a 50' front yard setback.
  • Plainfield Township's position is Green Knight/Waste Management never met the conditions of the recorded land development plan for the energy center, so Synagro's plant would in fact require a 50' setback from the road (SALDO relef and a variance)
  • The current submission is the first one to realistically display most if not all features that will be needed for the Synagro operation.  For example "truck tippers" are shown, raw material pits, a pump "gallery" where pumping of shit takes place, and a cooling tower.  The Synagro "water treatment plant" has been redefined and relocated as a 58' large storage tank over behind the energy center.
  • All of the added features make for an even more congested area where parking, truck movements and employee pedestrian traffic must all take place.
  • While each of the two operations requires 3 acres each in the ordinance, and more than 12 acres is proposed, the two uses "overlap".  Synagro's trucks are driving right next to the Energy Center in either a driveway or parking lot.  Thus, the minimum required area is not being provided for the Energy Center - it appears that less than 2 acres contiguous is provided for the Energy Center - which would be a zoning violation.
  • The Site Plan refers to the 12.1 acre lot as "proposed Synagro operations, which is a crock.  The Energy Center is within this parcel, and it is in no way related to Synagro's principal use - shit.

Synagro has upped the anty by filing a land development plan.  It is expected that Plainfield Township will do the same in the engineering and zoning reviews - it is time to state unequivocally "A variance is needed to article XXX of the ordinance."  As stated above, normally this would happen prior to land development and variances would be squared away, but Waste Management and Synagro are being pricks and trying to slam their way into Plainfield Township.  It should get interesting soon - the gloves are off and it promises to be a genuine shitstorm.