Hellam Twp. residents square off over Perdue
A group of Hellam Township residents said they'll continue the fight to require Perdue AgriBusiness to install pollution-reduction equipment at a proposed facility in Lancaster County.
The group had allies on the board of supervisors who had been petitioning the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to require the equipment that would reduce the amount of hexane gas released into the air, but they lost in the November election.
Now some residents are starting the group Citizens Against Perdue Pollution, resident Lynn Mackley told supervisors at their meeting Thursday.
"We understand the incoming board of supervisors does not consider this a priority," she said.
Supervisors Mike Martin and Stephen Wolf lost in the election for six-year terms to David Miller and Philip Smith while Riki Potosky beat Bill Sprenkle for a two-year term. Sprenkle had previously resigned from the board.
Petition: Mackley had a petition signed by 310 township residents and 175 residents of surrounding areas urging the new board to continue asking DEP to require the equipment.
"Our petition clearly states we are not against the Perdue plant," she said, adding they merely want the equipment installed.
One resident challenged Mackley's petition, saying some of those who signed it didn't know what they were signing. He also pointed out residents who signed it represent a small portion of the township's population while a great number of voters aired their grievances at the ballot box.
The estimated population for the township as of 2014 was about 6,000 people, according to U.S. Census data.
Mackley defended the petition, saying any signee could have easily read it before signing.
The plant: The $59 million Perdue soybean-crushing facility is proposed for Conoy Township, just over the Susquehanna River, but winds could send hazardous hexane gas across the river to areas of York County, including Hellam Township, 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 DEP. Hexane is federally classified as a hazardous air pollutant. The DEP will decide if the plant should be required to have the equipment to reduce the amount of hexane released into the air.
Resident Warren Evans, a retired cancer researcher, said equipment could greatly reduce the amount of hexane released.
"The first principle of local government is to protect the health and safety" of its residents, he said.
The plant will be able to process 17.5 million bushels of soybeans per year and produce soybean meal, soybean hulls and soybean oil.
Opponents: A second group of residents, and the newly elected supervisors, said they are opposed to the township spending money to petition DEP.
Supervisors in August approved spending $5,000 for an additional consultant. That's on top of the $21,000 it had spend since 2011.
"End it right here," said Mark Potosky. "Let them (DEP) do their jobs."
Martin, however, said the money is well spent and the consultants have pointed out to DEP issues it had missed.
Citing a 2012 legal document, Supervisor Galen Weibley, who will remain on the board come 2016, said the township has been opposed to the plant outright from the start.
The document, a confidential communication agreement, says the parties, including Hellam Township, "seek to prevent development of the plant."
Clarification: Township solicitor Michale Craley acknowledged the wording in the document could have been better phrased, saying the township isn't opposed to the plant, it just doesn't want the harmful gases.
Martin also reiterated his longtime stance:
"We don't have a problem with (the) plant. The only thing we have a problem with is the hexane," he said. "I want this to go in and I want it to go in, in a clean fashion."
Stephen Mohr, a Conoy Township supervisor who attended the meeting, said Conoy's stance on the pollution-reduction equipment is to leave it up to DEP.
"To this point, we haven't been shown Perdue isn't doing it right," he said.
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.