Lehigh Valley

Taking a stance against sludge in Upper Mt. Bethel Twp.

One Northampton County community is fighting the use of bio-solids on area land.

A stance against sludge

UPPER MOUNT BETHEL TWP., Pa. - Community members in one Northampton County community are taking a stance against sludge.

A meeting Monday could determine whether Upper Mount Bethel Township will stop former county councilman Ron Angle from spreading biosolids on his farmland.

A group of citizens is trying to get Upper Mt. Bethel supervisors to pass a local ordinance preventing the spread of biosolids.

But the state DEP says that move could lead to a battle in court.

Some people in Upper Mt. Bethel township say they are still in shock that fertilizer made from human waste could be spread near their homes.

That's what former Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle wants to do on over 300 acres of land.

"The bottom line is that they are poisoning us," said Diane Zimmerer, part of the group, UMBT United Against Sludge Dumping. "It's not a fertilizer, it's a way to get rid of toxic waste."

"It's an acceptable use in Pennsylvania," said Colleen Connolly, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. "The state legislature has given the approval along with information from scientists and biologists who have studied bio-solids. It's a safe and effective way for treating farmland in Pennsylvania."

Two hundred and fifty people, all part of the Upper Mt. Bethel Township United Against Sludge Dumping group, want township supervisors to pass an injunction in the form of an ordinance preventing the use of biosolids.

"We have the right to protect our natural environment," added resident, Scott Minnich. "The supervisors when they take their oath of office is to protect the environment and protect the citizens of the township."

The group is working with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
The same group that drafted the Tamaqua borough sewage sludge ordinance that was passed in August of 2006.

"It is DEP's position that a state ordinance supersedes any local ordinance, but again the ordinance in Tamaqua has not been challenged," said Connolly.

Ultimately, a challenge to either ordinance could end up in court.
But that's a risk some Upper Mt. Bethel residents are willing to take.

"Just because it's law doesn't mean it's a good law or that it's safe," said Zimmerer. "So that's our bottom line."

This month House Bill 1866 was introduced in Harrisburg.
The bill would give local municipalities the authority to adopt such ordinances if made law.

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