Quarries, sinkholes and cold hard cash were discussed by Whitehall Township officials Monday night.
The township wants to impose a fee on every dump truck load of sand being brought to a Whitehall quarry from New Jersey. The amount of such a fee has not yet been determined.
The township also may attach some financial strings to a Northampton Borough Municipal Authority (NBMA) request that it not have to pay a “degradation fee” generated by a sinkhole in Mickley Road.
Both issues were discussed at Monday night’s township workshop meeting and, while unrelated, both may require negotiations to resolve.
Whitehall officials intend to negotiate tipping fees with the Ciccone family, which owns two quarries on a property off West Coplay Road in the township.
The smaller of those quarries is being filled with sand being trucked in from the dredging of New Jersey’s Newark Bay.
That dredging is being done to keep the bay’s shipping lanes open, said Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza.
“Whitehall is not the sole dumping ground for this material,” said the mayor, who explained the sand also is being trucked to three locations in New Jersey.
Hozza said the township has not yet approached the Ciccone family to begin those negotiations. “We have to bring in the owners of the property to have a discussion,” he told township commissioners.
Months ago, the mayor and his staff began noticing a number of tri-axle trucks bearing New Jersey plates coming into the township. He followed trucks to the quarry where Steve Kolbe, one of the quarry’s operators, told him the sand being dumped there was dredged after being pushed into Newark Bay by Hurricane Sandy.
“The trucks continue; it’s sporadic,” said the mayor. “Some days we’ll have 80 to 100 --other days, nothing.”
Hozza called it a dry quarry, meaning it has not filled with water like many old quarries in the area. He said the township never approved putting sand into that quarry but the state Department of Environmental Protection said the owners have a mining reclamation permit to do it.
Hozza said DEP has been called out several times because of odors emanating from the quarry. He said it smells like “bad lobster…dead fish.”
He said on a windy day Cementon’s nearby Home Park neighborhood gets the brunt of those odors.
Despite the smell, Hozza said Pennsylvania’s DEP considers the material clean fill. He said New Jersey’s DEP considers it contaminated sand.
He indicated if the material would be considered municipal site by DEP, there is no question the township could collect tipping fees.
Yet the mayor told commissioners Whitehall legally can charge tipping fees. He said other Pennsylvania townships have negotiated such fees with property owners involved in such operations.
One is East Norrriton Township in Montgomery County, which has entered into an agreement with another quarry owner to pay tipping fees. Hozza said the amount of those fees was negotiated between that township and the quarry owner.
He said in Northampton County’s Plainfield and Lower Saucon townships, which have landfills, tipping fees make up 30-40 percent of those townships’ annual operating budgets.
Hozza wants to put tipping fee revenue from the Whitehall quarry operators into a township escrow account that will be used for the eventual repair of West Coplay Road, Chestnut Street and Coplay Road “from the damage caused by the tri-axles.”
Phillip Ginder, vice president of the township commissioners, said he recently saw two trucks in a convoy of five and neither had any lettering on them, except for New Jersey license plates.
Hozza suggested residents should call the Whitehall police non-emergency phone number if they see tri-axle dump trucks without company names or state Public Utility Commission numbers on their doors, especially if they are bearing New Jersey plates.
He added state police can intercept such trucks heading back toward New Jersey on Route 22. “State police will pull them over for us. They have been very vigilant.”
Waive the degradation fee?
NBMA is asking Whitehall to waive a $26,000 degradation fee it is being asked to pay for the Mickley Road sinkhole.