Lehigh Valley

Landfill owners spar over garbage odors in Lower Saucon Twp.

LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. - It's an inevitable fact that odors will likely emanate from a landfill full of rotting garbage.

Mitigation of odors coming from the 224-acre IESI Bethlehem Landfill at 2335 Applebutter Road was on the mind of Lower Saucon Township Council and concerned residents Wednesday night, during a quarterly report given by Christopher Taylor of Hanover Engineering.

Taylor serves as the township's host municipal inspector for the landfill.

He said his most recent concerns stem from the use of paper sludge which is being used as a daily cover for the landfill's garbage and another covering substance called posi-shell, a thin concrete veneer that also covers the refuse.

"My concerns with these products are issues of performance and issues of musty odor," Taylor said.

Taylor added that odors from gas management and landfill leachate from residents in the last three months has brought out staff from IESI Bethlehem Landfill, the state Department of Environmental Protection, township workers and local law enforcement to try and pinpoint where the problem is.

Leachate is caused by rainwater that flows through the landfill and gathers in ponds at the landfill sites.

One of the leachate ponds in the Bethlehem landfill tested for higher-than-normal DEP particles of waste.

Taylor said that could also be generating smells.

"It's not good enough to point at the hill and say it's coming from the landfill," he said.

But Taylor's final recommendation caught the attention of council and IESI Bethlehem Landfill District Manager Joe Donato.

Taylor said that IESI Compliance Manager Allen Schleyer should be assigned permanently to the Applebutter Road facility "to deal with the number, scope and complexity of the Bethlehem operations to deal with issues in a timely fashion."

Taylor also recommended that Donato attend all regularly-scheduled monthly landfill meetings.

"That's pretty offensive." Donato told council. "I don't tell Mr. Taylor where Harmon Engineering should make him work."

Donato said he receives regular reports from the monthly landfill meetings when he doesn't attend.

"We investigate all of our odor complaints," Donato said. "We patrol Steel City for odors and we follow up with e-mails."

Councilman Tom Maxwell said Taylor's recommendations on how to run a private business was out of place.

"We can't tell private business how to run a facility. When we start having people who attend meeting to start assigning work; that's a place we shouldn't start treading. We should just spend the money and stop wasting all this time," Maxwell said.

Lower Saucon Township is currently taking RFP's and bids from engineers for a study in an attempt to alleviate the odor problem, especially in the Steel City section.

Resident Walter Zagwoski said he is getting more and more concerned about the odors, which have increased in intensity during the last year.

"It gets pretty bad in the evening, around 6:30 or 7 p.m.," he said. Other residents said sometimes the stench is so bad, they can "taste it."

"It's a very insidious problem," Taylor said. "It's not like trying to find a needle in a haystack, it's like trying to find an invisible needle in a haystack. We have to do a better job to diagnose and fix the problem."

Councilwoman Priscilla deLeon said overall, she's happy with the way IESI has performed.

"I took the report very seriously. As long as they stay within environmental regulations, I'm fine," she said. "We have issues with the landfill, but they are very quick to respond to any issues."

Taylor's report noted that there are no issues with stormwater management and that problems with overweight trucks from New York showing up at the landfill are being addressed by township police.

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