It was a packed house in eastern Berks County, as residents filled the Earl Elementary School gymnasium to learn more about a landfill's plan to expand.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hosted a public hearing regarding the controversial expansion application for the Rolling Hills Landfill, which is located on 160 acres of land in Earl Township.
Opposing positions were expressed; no voices were raised.
The event was intended to hear verbal testimony from interested parties about the application for a lateral and vertical landfill expansion of 14.9-million cubic yards, which will add 17.3 years of life of the landfill.
As it stands, the landfill has about four years until it is at capacity.
John Repetz, a DEP spokesman, chaired the hearing, which limited comments to a duration of five minutes.
Paul Stengle, a member of the Rolling Hills Advisory Council, spoke first in favor of the application, citing benefits that include no township taxes and donations made by the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority to numerous civic organizations in the area, including Building a Better Boyertown.
He concluded that "although there are negative effects to the landfill, the benefits exceed the negative."
Berks County Commissioner Mark C. Scott, an opponent of expansion, argued that the application is unlawful and requires the consent of the Berks commissioners to move forward.
"Don't hold your breath," Scott said about soon gaining that approval.
For many people in the audience of about 75, truck traffic on Route 73 through Boyertown, and not the landfill itself, is the major issue.
A number of community leaders, including Adrienne Blank, Boyertown Main Street manager, Crystal Seitz, president of Pennsylvania's Americana Region (the county's visitors bureau), and Bill Flederbach, a business owner in Boyertown, testified about the impact that the heavy truck traffic has on tourism, pedestrian traffic in Boyertown, air quality and the inside cleanliness of downtown businesses.
Like a majority of other speakers, they favor a solution that incorporates the Colebrookdale Railroad to transport the waste ash from Pottstown to the landfill.
Nathaniel Guest, executive director of the Colebrookdale Rail Road Trust, testified that, if asked, the railroad would provide the service, although infrastructure improvements would be required.
Joseph Vasturia, the CEO of the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority, said that, if required, he would work with the railroad, but some truck traffic connected with the landfill would still exist.
Rich Sassaman, a local resident and last-minute addition to the speaker's list, proposed an idea that had never before been discussed: Instead of transporting the waste from Chester to the Boyertown area on the Norfolk and Southern Rail Road and then transferring the ash to the Colebrookdale Railroad in Pottstown for the remainder of the journey, Sassaman said the Norfolk and Southern line could be used to transport waste to the Mascaro Landfill near Birdsboro. The waste would the be trucked from there to the Rolling Hills Landfill, thus avoiding the problems created by trucking through Boyertown.
Written comments about the application will be accepted until June 15 and should be mailed to John Oren, DEP Waste Management Program, 909 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110, or emailed to email@example.com.