Lehigh Valley

IESI landfill explains tremors that shook houses

Council also appoints new township manager

L. SAUCON TWP., Pa. - Lower Saucon Township council on Wednesday questioned the general manager of the IESI Bethlehem landfill about what exactly caused three homes near the landfill to shake so violently neighbors thought they were experiencing an earthquake.

IESI General Manager Al Schleyer told officials high cross winds that accompanied Tuesday morning's rainstorm caused a liner in the southwestern quadrant to balloon up. That caused temporary well caps to lift off allowing air into the methane gas collection system, resulting in the loud noises generated by the mechanical louver controls system.

Rick Meyers, of the 2500 block of Ringhoffer Road, called police to report his home was vibrating so intensely that windows, cupboards and doors banged loudly, according to a township police report.

Nearby Ringhoffer Road resident Patti Wagner told police her front door and the ground below her home shook so badly she feared her entire home was in danger of collapse.

Schleyer told police Tuesday the ground in the area shook because one of the flare units that burns off excess methane gas coming from the landfill absorbed a large amount of air that mixed with methane already in the pipes.

That rise in pressure caused the equipment unit to shake the ground, he said.

After being made aware of the situation by Meyers, Schleyer told council he had a pressure valve released, which corrected the situation. He also told police more sandbags would be added to secure the liner and three damaged well heads would be replaced.

All landfill equipment is currently functioning properly, and the public was in no danger during or after the incident, according to Schleyer. He told council no one detected any odors because there was sufficient liner cover to keep odors in check.

Prevention methods include additional sandbagging of the liner.

MAP: IESI landfill tremors

"We'll heavily weigh down the area," Schleyer said, adding he could not recall any past incidents similar to this one.

Chris Taylor, the township's landfill inspector with Hanover Engineering, said he reviewed the situation early Tuesday afternoon and conferred with Schleyer. He also reported the incident to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

In other matters, council approved the appointment and promotion of Leslie Huhn from assistant township manager to township manager effective immediately at an annual salary of $85,000.

Having worked in local government since 1994, Huhn joined Lower Saucon in 2001. She was promoted to acting assistant manager in 2003, assistant manager in 2004, and acting township manager in December upon the retirement of Jack Cahalan.

Commenting how much she looked forward to her promotion, Huhn thanked council for its confidence in her abilities. She holds an associate's business degree from the former Churchman's Business School of Easton.

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