Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Watchdog Delaware Riverkeeper actively monitoring Synagro’s sludge plant application for Grand Central/Waste Management property in Plainfield Township

Next meeting this coming Monday see right margin for details

At the May 31 Plainfield Township planning commission’s continuation of its review of Synagro’s land development plan to locate a crap bakery on Grand Central Sanitary Landfill property, there were several citizens who wished to participate in asking questions of the Applicant and/or making comments on the proposal.  Time became short, as there was a lengthy list of speakers, and they were well prepared and took several minutes each at the podium.  If time permits their comments will be summarized in a post.

While all the speakers had excellent questions and informed points, there were two speakers of note also for who they are.  One was Lisa Perin, granddaughter of the founder of the Grand Central landfill.  She had a lot to say, 99% negative, about Synagro’s proposal.  That will also be covered in a separate post.  Essentially her points were once Synagro is in the township they will never leave because it is virtually impossible to find a site for such a plant, and the cost of hosting a Synagro facility will far outweigh any alleged benefit to Plainfield Township or the other communities affected.

Ms. Perin is a beautiful woman, but she spent her 10 minutes at the podium
bitch-slapping Synagro's proposed poop bakery

Ms. Carluccio had only a few minutes but summed up her preliminary thoughts with
"It's pretty outrageous this application has gotten this far"

While Ms. Perin was able to cover all her points, the other speaker of note, Tracy Carluccio, was not due to time constraints.  Few people in the room may have known who she is or even after she announced she is number two at the Delaware Riverkeeper what the significance of that may be.  Synagro should - the Delaware Riverkeeper recently assisted residents of Upper Mount Bethel Township in winning a settlement to prevent Class B biosolids from being spread by Synagro on three properties in the township.  While Pennsylvania is fairly lax in regards to permitting the application of biosolids, in the case of UMBT there are streams on the properties in question, which allowed for such a settlement to be possible.

The Delaware Riverkeeper gets involved in all kinds of projects that may have an impact on the environment, especially as pertains to the Delaware River Basin.  One example is the East Penn Pipeline.  Riverkeeper is on it.  Since water flows downstream, if a water course can be traced back from the Delaware to a creek with headwaters near a proposed sludge plant (for example), that might be very well be squarely in the crosshairs of the Riverkeeper.  As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to follow any one project, and there are a lot of projects.  The Riverkeeper has a fairly large staff, including its own in-house attorneys.

What practical effect can the Riverkeeper have?  A great one.  In the case of UMBT, a small group of citizens got together and appealed the DEP permit for the application of sludge on the farms in question - Class B requires a permit.  A legal challenge of a decision of the DEP is not done in the usual court system of court of common pleas and Commonwealth Court - there is a special body called the Environmental Hearing Board that hears such appeals.  As the citizens' appeal was moving along, it gained the attention of the Delaware Riverkeeper, which intervened after a significant amount of resources had already been invested. Interestingly the DEP Northeast Region Biosolids Permit manager Timothy Craven testified under oath that he was not aware of what the Delaware River Basin’s standards were for discharges that include runoff from biosolids.  This is damning because the DEP is responsible for enforcing the DRBC’s standards.  The River Keeper and citizens won a settlement with the DEP in which it was agreed DEP would never approve the spreading of Class B biosolids on the farms in question, that DEP would change its standard operating procedures in regards to permitting and monitoring the application of biosolids, and the awarding of legal fees.  Note on page 5 that Attorney Jordan Yeager was enlisted by the Riverkeeper and citizens - Yeager won a very notable case at the PA Supreme Court in the last few years, in which something called the Environmental Rights Amendment took center stage.  Yeager's services are in high demand across Pennsylvania by people and townships fighting water extraction, poop processing, fracking, etc.  In this case, Yeager and the Riverkeeper teamed up to obtain an excellent result for the appellants.

Ms. Carluccio was given very little time to speak.  She was able to quickly correct a very significant misrepresentation that Synagro project representative Pam Racey made.  Earlier Ms. Racey had stated on questioning that in the event a truck back hauling waste water from Synagro is refused offloading at its destination, that a plant in South Jersey is Synagro’s “go-to” and it “will dispose of anything.”   Ms. Carluccio pointed out that this facility closed a year and a half ago.  Ms. Racey had trouble answering many questions with specificity, and in this case she was specific and very wrong.  One speaker pointed out that for someone with 30 years of experience, Ms. Racey did not seem very knowledgeable.  Multiple meeting attendees later agreed they saw this as well.

Through Ms. Carluccio's appearance she put everyone on notice that the Riverkeeper is actively engaged in reviewing Synagro’s proposal, and all of the regulatory applications that have been filed.  On the Riverkeeper’s website, it has links to these materials, as well as a “fact sheet” on Synagro and updates on Synagro’s proposal.

The actual Riverkeeper - Maya K. van Rossum

What this means is that the Riverkeeper is currently lodged in Synagro’s butt hole.  If a permit is issued by DEP, and the Riverkeeper believes there is a justification to challenge it, it is quite possible that the organization will participate in an initial appeal to the EHB.  The Riverkeeper has members in Wind Gap, Pen Argyl and Plainfield Township, so it has standing in people as well as its general commitment to the environment.

Riverkeepeer is the last organization Synagro wants sniffing around its backside

There is a two-pronged legal defense emerging.  At the May 31st meeting township Solicitor Backenstoe made it crystal clear that the township is standing behind its position that Synagro requires zoning relief - zoning relief that it is not entitled to since the property in question is already generating generous income to Waste Management.  Synagro has stubbornly refused to file an application for the variances that have been determined to be required.  Zoning Hearing Board decisions are appealed through the court of common pleas, then to the state, and in rare cases to the state supreme court.  Any DEP permit issued may be appealed to the Environmental Hearing Board.  Thus there are two avenues of appeal available.

A Plainfield Township official has confirmed that Ms. Carluccio and any other citizen who was not able to complete their comments at the May meeting will be given an opportunity to speak at the beginning of the continuation of the Synagro review on Monday June 18 (see sidebar on right margin).  One can assume she will have very educated commentary on the application, to which the Riverkeeper is obviously opposed. This assumes that there is time for Synagro’s application to be addressed.  This is a regular meeting of the planning commission and there are other items on the agenda (below) before Synagro.
  1. Taco Bell (tabled and they are not expected to appear)
  2. Minor Subdivision (residential property wishing to subdivide to 2 lots)
  3. Green Knight Industrial Park II (see article tomorrow on what this may entail if Green Knight appears - hint: Green Knight has a groundbreaking on this project scheduled for June 22, but they have no recorded land development plan.  Will they appear to address contentious outstanding issues before a room full of residents waiting to discuss Synagro?)
  4. Synagro
The official meeting agenda for Monday is here.

This blogger’s guess is that the minor subdivision may take 1/2 hour to 1 hour minimum.  It’s anyone’s guess if Green Knight will have the balls to show up at this venue, even though they have a dog and pony show scheduled for June 22.  History says they really don’t care about recorded plans - look at how they built the Green Knight Energy Center contrary to the recorded plan, and are in violation of it to this day.