The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday night hosted a virtual municipal involvement process meeting to review the steps that will be taken regarding the requested expansion of Bethlehem Landfill in Lower Saucon Township, Northampton County.
"This is just the beginning," said Roger Bellas, a DEP program manager, adding that there will be plenty of opportunities for the public and municipal officials to ask questions about the landfill's application to expand its operations on Applebutter Road.
The former City of Bethlehem landfill, now owned by Waste Connections Inc., has approximately 3.5 years of useful life left. Waste Connections wants to add about four acres to its northern border for a new disposal area. The company also wants to add more waste on top of existing waste within the 206 acres that are already permitted by the DEP, said Maryanne Garber, a lawyer representing the landfill.
The expansion, which has received zoning and land use approval in Lower Saucon, is expected to add three years of operating life to the facility, said David Pannuci, an engineer for Waste Connections.
Bellas went through an outline of the multiple steps that will be required before the DEP considers the application, including acceptance of the application; posting of the application on the DEP's website; an environmental assessment with a 60-day comments period; a technical assessment; additional reviews, if necessary; and additional public hearings, if requested.
Agencies such as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the state Historical and Museum Commission and the Northampton County Conservation District can also weigh in if there are concerns about traffic, historical sites, endangered species and the environment, Bellas said.
In making any final decision, the DEP must determine whether the benefits of the landfill expansion outweigh any harm to the community, he explained. Public comments play a big role in the process, and Bellas encouraged municipal officials and residents to reach out to the DEP with any questions.
The proposed northern expansion of the landfill is near Steel City and homes on Applebutter Road.
Priscilla deLeon, a member of Lower Saucon Township Council, noted that residents still smell odors coming from the landfill and asked about plans to eliminate them. Bellas said the issue has been addressed and described the DEP's stricter, more regimented quarterly surface monitoring and monthly inspections at landfills.
Pannuci said mitigating odors is a daily task at the landfill and the owners will continue to work with the DEP to eliminate offsite odors.
Mud and debris on Applebutter Road resulting from landfill operations also pose a problem, deLeon said. Bellas, unaware of complaints, noted that it's an unacceptable situation that could be grounds for a citation. He said it's up to the landfill owners to police roads near the landfill entrance.