Wilburn said if the zoning board approves the exception it will reduce the quality of life for everyone living in that neighborhood.

Resident Tom Schweyer presented the zoning board with a petition signed by 164 Midway Manor residents who oppose National Container’s plan.

McCarthy accepted the petition, but explained it does not become part of the formal record of the proceeding because those who signed the petition “are not here to give testimony.”

“We respectfully request that you help us protect our neighborhood, our children and our grandchildren by denying this exception,” said Schweyer. “Our well-being is in your hands. Please keep us safe.”

“I request and urge you please -- keep our zoning the way it is,” echoed Rev. Manuel Hernandez, an Assemblies of God clergyman who said his Midway Manor home faces the property.

Special exception requests should not get rubber stamp approval, testified Richard Schilling, a Midway Manor resident who described himself as a zoning officer in Bucks County.

Another Love Canal?

Resident Joseph Svetecz, who identified himself as a certified biologist who teaches biology and environmental science at Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, demanded that, before making a decision, the zoning board “in accordance with federal law” first obtain and release full disclosure of any and all chemicals that are going to be on the site.

“A community has the right to oppose a new development in their neighborhood because it is too close to residents and potentially causing a threat,” said Svetecz.

 He said containers brought to the site would contain “residues of unknown origin.”

“A container company moving into our neighborhood could cause environmental damage and threaten our well-being if they get sloppy with handling these residues of unknown origin,” maintained Svetecz, who brought up Love Canal.

“There could be a mass contamination of our area.

“Such products and residues could run off into our neighborhoods and/or leach into our water table.”

Love Canal, a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, N.Y., made international headlines in the late 1970s because it was built over a toxic waste dump that contained more than 21,000 tons of chemical wastes.

Eventually, 800 families were relocated. That environmental disaster spurred the creation of the federal Superfund hazardous waste clean-up program.

Svetecz said homeowners in Love Canal did not have full disclosure of the types of chemicals that were beneath their homes.

During the thaw after a harsh winter, he said, those chemicals created a toxic stew that leached out of the ground into backyards and basements, causing cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and developmental problems for children.

“Would you place this business in your neighborhood?” Svetecz asked the zoning board.

“How would you feel if an environmental problem were to arise in the neighborhood and innocent people were to fall ill?”

Daycare next door

Several residents noted a daycare is next to the proposed plant.

 East Allentown resident Evette D’Amore, who takes her four-year-old twins to that daycare, wanted assurances that all the children who go to there are going to be safe from fumes or liquid wastes.

“If you can swear up and down that they’re going to be safe, I’ll believe you,” she said.

 “But if you can’t make that promise 100 percent, I would worry and I’ll have to rethink. I’d hate for the daycare to lose more children because the parents feel like I do.”

Truck traffic