Township officials cite 'dead end' in negotiations with landfill

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

Lower Windsor Township officials say they've exhausted their options for addressing pollution from Modern Landfill — although they encourage residents to take up the cause themselves.

"We've done what we can do," said Township Supervisor Donald Schock, when asked by a resident about the issue at an Oct. 13 meeting.

Schock said township officials even brought their concern to Gov. Tom Wolf's office but concluded the conversation was "kind of a dead end."

Wastewater discharged from Modern Landfill into the Kreutz Creek exceeded various pollutant thresholds set by the state Department of Environmental Protection since 2017, eventually leading to a 2020 consent decree outlining mandatory steps to remedy the problem.

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However, the DEP has allowed the landfill additional time to ramp up wastewater treatment plans, which landfill officials expect to be completed sometime in mid-2023.

Separately, township officials previously rejected a proposal to expand the landfill by 122 acres onto land in Lower Windsor. Landfill officials say the expansion is necessary in order to continue to meet current and future demand.

Without the expansion, the York County Solid Waste Authority expects the current landfill to reach its capacity in 2025. Officials in Hopewell Township, meanwhile, rejected a plan to transform a former EPA Superfund site back into a landfill to meet that overflow demand.

Lower Windsor Township officials repeatedly ignored or declined The York Dispatch's requests for comment on the current status of the landfill expansion and pollution issues.

At its Oct. 13 meeting, township resident JoAnn Dietz asked the board how residents or board members can be proactive in addressing the Kreutz Creek contamination from Modern Landfill discharge.

"I know DEP and EPA, you know, are all involved in this, but is there something that we can do to move it along?" Dietz asked her elected officials. "I just feel like were sitting around doing nothing. I think our township should be letting us know what's going on with this."

Schock said he encouraged Dietz and other residents to reach out to local representatives with their concerns. He declined to comment further after the meeting.

In July, the township put a notice on its website that officials had notified the DEP about chemical levels in Kreutz Creek. Township Manager Sandie Cunningham said that will be the procedure going forward for passing news along to residents.

"If we had any updated from the DEP or EPA," she said, "I would have posted them on our website like I said I would in those postcards we sent out."

Cunningham declined the Dispatch's requests for comment on the issue.

Dietz continued to press the township officials in the public forum, however.

"What I'm saying is that you're not getting any information from them," she said. "So is there something that we should be doing to get more information from them? Or are we going to sit and say, 'OK, well, just wait'?"

Water sampling with local environmentalist Cindy Pizziketti, from Springettsbury, in Hallam on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

For his part, Schock said the township has done all it can.

"If you start [grass] roots, making noise, hopefully you'll get some results," he said.

In2020, the township ended negotiations with landfill owner Republic Industries over the possible expansion. When the landfill is capped, the township will lose $1.2 million in revenue from its host agreement with Modern Landfill and in tipping fees.

At the time, then-Board Chair Barry Miller said the township had no plans to fill the budget hole that would eventually be opened by that lost revenue.

"I would challenge anyone here to come up with an idea of how we can make up for that $1.2 million that we’ll be receiving this year another way," Miller said at a December 2019 meeting.

Landfill-related revenue accounted for roughly a third of the township's $3.6 million budget.

It remains unclear how the township would replace the lost revenue, and township officials have declined comment on the issue.

Tim O'Donnell, the Modern Landfill's general manager, told the Dispatch that Republic Industries is still open to restarting negotiations. But he added that nothing can happen unless Lower Windsor comes back to the table.