Lower Windsor Twp. pumps brakes on landfill expansion
The Lower Windsor Township Board of Supervisors will not sign a host agreement with Modern Landfill for an expansion plan until the township is satisfied that residents' concerns have been adequately addressed, the board chairman said Tuesday.
About 200 people attended the township's special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21, to discuss the landfill, and township staff hauled in nearly every spare chair in the building to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd.
"We jumped the gun a little bit here, but now we're going to back it up and we're going to get you people involved," said Chairman Barry Miller. "You know, we hear what you're saying."
Residents came out en masse to a December meeting when news got out that the supervisors planned to sign an amended host agreement with Modern Landfill.
Most of Modern Landfill, owned by Arizona-based Republic Services, is in Windsor Township, but the company is planning an eastward expansion into Lower Windsor Township.
The amended host agreement is meant to guarantee certain benefits to the Lower Windsor Township and create goodwill between the township and Republic Services, officials said.
But residents argued in December, and at Tuesday's meeting, that the agreement on the table doesn't do enough to protect them and their property from the landfill's impact.
Miller suggested Tuesday that the township should put together an advisory group of residents who live near the proposed expansion to meet with Tim O'Donnell, the landfill's general manager.
O'Donnell, who also was at Tuesday's meeting to answer questions, agreed to meet with the group.
The landfill expansion would be contained within a stretch of land covering about 1 square mile bordered by East Prospect Road to the north, Gun Club Road to the south, Mount Pisgah Road to the east and Barcroft Road to the west.
Bonnie Lauer, who lives on Gun Club Road, was the first resident to speak.
Lauer said the host agreement in its current form doesn't adequately address her and her neighbors' concerns, such as the landfill's hours of operation, clean water guarantees, catastrophe insurance coverage and traffic pattern analysis.
One of the greatest concerns, Lauer said, is the agreement's lack of a provision to protect residents from declining property values because of proximity to the landfill.
She suggested the township look at host agreements negotiated in other municipalities for examples of funding programs and funding formulas that would require Republic Services to insure the value of the properties impacted by the landfill.
"It’s a viable and fair option for those who have invested in their homes with belief and aspirations of staying in their homes well into their end-of-life days and now need to consider, perhaps, a different plan," she said.
O'Donnell said property value protection clauses aren't common in host agreements but that they do exist and could be negotiated.
About two dozen other residents raised concerns about losing their investments in their homes and about air, noise and water pollution.
Supervisor George Yakubowski asked how Republic Services could protect the ground water beneath the landfill.
There must be at least 8 feet between the bottom of the landfill and the top of the water table at the table's highest seasonal level, said Daniel Fellon, a consulting engineer for Republic Services.
On top of that 8-foot barrier, Republic would install a liner made of natural soils, a low-permeability clay-like material and other geo-synthetic materials to prevent contaminants from leaking into the ground water.
There also are groundwater monitors that would alert to any contamination, Fellon said.
O'Donnell said there's a misconception that landfills hold pools of wastewater beneath the waste. He said modern day landfills are constructed so that wastewater flows to a centralized draining area.
"It’s like a bathtub," he said. "Everything drains to the low point. It’s extracted at the low point, and then the wastewater is handled from there."
Patricia Kerchner, who lives on Old Farm Lane off Barcroft Road, said she already has to plan outdoor events and gatherings at her home based on the timing of the noise from the landfill, especially backup alarms on trucks.
She said she's worried the noise will be even louder once the landfill moves east toward her home.
O'Donnell said there are some technologies that can be used to dampen the noise but also that backup alarms on trucks are a safety measure that saves lives.
Becky Alvarez Pfeiffer said she and her neighbors weren't there to demonize anyone but rather to make sure they were getting a fair deal from the township's host agreement with Republic Services, which she said is a multi-billion dollar corporation that returned more than $1 billion to its shareholders last year.
The people who are going to be most impacted by the Modern Landfill expansion need to be well-compensated, Pfeiffer said.
Miller said he doubted the board would be ready to sign the agreement in February or even March because there needs to be enough time for further negotiation.
"We hear the concerns of the people, and now we want to address them," Miller said.
The proposed expansion area is in an agricultural zone.
Lower Windsor Township would need to either grant a zoning variance to Republic to allow industrial development or amend its zoning map to change the area to an industrial zone, according to Monica Love, the township's zoning officer.
Zoning changes won't happen until Republic applies for a zoning change in preparation for the company's permit application to the state Department of Environmental Protection, Love said Tuesday.
O'Donnell said Republic would not submit a permit application without first securing the proper zoning from the township.
The next board of supervisors meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Lower Windsor Township building.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct date of the next Lower Windsor Township Board of Supervisors Meeting.