Hellam Twp. to spend more money to require equipment at Perdue plant


Hellam Township supervisors approved spending a further $5,000 to hire an additional consultant in its yearslong fight to require Perdue AgriBusiness to install equipment to reduce the amount of hazardous gas released from a proposed soybean facility.

The request for the added funding drew the ire of about half a dozen vocal residents at the meeting Thursday who argued tax dollars shouldn't be used.

Rather, they said, the private sector, including citizens, should donate funds if they choose.

However, Mike Martin, chairman of the board of supervisors, said supervisors are responsible for protecting the health and welfare of all residents.

"That's what we're doing," he said.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to allocate the $5,000. Galen Weibley voted against. The vote was needed because it sent the township over its limit to spend $6,400 a year on the matter.

The plant: The Perdue soybean-crushing facility is proposed for Conoy Township, just over the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County.

Prevailing winds would blow dangerous air pollution into Hellam and Manchester townships, York Haven and possibly into York City, officials have said.

The plant would send nearly 246,000 pounds of hexane into the atmosphere every year, according to an application the company submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Hexane is federally classified as a hazardous air pollutant.

The DEP will decide if the plant should be required to have equipment to reduce the amount of hexane released into the air.

Plans call for the $59 million plant to be built on 57 acres next to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority's incinerator. Upon completion, the plant will be able to process 17.5 million bushels of soybeans per year and produce soybean meal, soybean hulls and soybean oil.

The plant will generate more than 150 construction jobs, 35 long-term jobs and 500 jobs in crop production and transportation.

Martin made it clear that the township isn't opposed to the plant; officials just want to make sure safeguards are in place to reduce dangerous emissions.

"This board has never been against a soybean-processing plant," he said. "In fact, we support it."

Opposed: Some residents argued money used to petition DEP to require Perdue to install the equipment is better spent in the township.

Weibley listed off a host of township services that could stand to benefit from added funding if the $5,000 weren't spent on an additional consultant.

"You can use $5,000 so much more in the township," he said.

Since 2011, when the plant was first proposed, the township has spent $21,000 on the matter, Weibley said.

Citing the recent disaster in Colorado where U.S. Environmental Protection Agency workers mistakenly released more than 3 million gallons of contaminated water into a river, township resident Lynne Mackley said she's skeptical DEP is even looking out for residents.

However, the EPA is operated by the federal government, and DEP is run by the state.

"I'm not sure what the difference is," she said after that was pointed out.

Resident Warren Evans, who said he's donated his own money toward requirement efforts, asked supervisors to send a letter to state officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf, asking them to intervene on the side of the township and like-mind parties. Supervisors approved sending a letter pending a review by the township solicitor and consultants.

John Eifert, who was appointed to the board of supervisors to fill a vacant position at the meeting, said the time to get DEP to require the pollution-reducing equipment is now since it's doubtful Perdue would install it after the plant is built.

"In terms of the health and safety of our community, it's probably a good return for our investment," he said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.