$148M loan to fund upgrades at Reading's wastewater treatment plant


Plans for a sludge plant being proposed for the Slate Belt area were effectively withdrawn by the applicant during a Plainfield Township Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday night, but a new plan is expected soon.

Grand Central Landfill had submitted a preliminary land development application for Synagro Technologies. Synagro, proposed the "Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center" which would turn human waste into fertilizer. However, zoning issues have prevented the project from moving forward.

Synagro was represented by attorney Elizabeth Witmer at the meeting.

After an hour of heated debate, Chairman Randy Heard motioned to reject the plan. The applicant quickly requested a five minute recess. Heard rescinded his motion and agreed to the recess.

After the break, Waste Management Consultant Mike Brennan announced that they were withdrawing the plan.

Township solicitor David Backenstoe said that it must be done in writing.

The board called for another five minute recess so that the applicant could prepare a statement to be reviewed by Backenstoe.

Backenstoe said that the battle over the plant has dragged out for two-and-a-half years. Synagro has repeatedly asked for extensions in the past. Backenstoe said they asked for 11 extensions in total. The company was set to ask for another 18 month extension before withdrawing the plan.

Heard expressed his thoughts that the proceedings had already gone on long enough.

Witmer said that it allowed time for more discussion.

"An 18 month extension will allow our consultants to talk," Witmer said. "It is in good faith, and we need time to discuss this with you."

Board members reviewed a previous denial handed down to Synagro which showed zoning issues that the applicant had not addressed. Synagro was denied due to a 50-foot setback and issues with accessing roads and highways from the plant.

Representatives of the project said they hadn't been to a zoning meeting, and believed they had addressed the issues.

Heard wondered why they hadn't gone to a zoning meeting and said they could have fixed these issues long before.

Supervisors asked the applicant if an environmental study had been conducted.

Project representatives said a study had not been conducted.

Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network Tracy Carluccio expressed frustration that a study hadn't been completed. She said there are legitimate concerns with surrounding groundwater and creeks.

"The heart of this entire issue is water," Carluccio said. "The protection of those waters is what the township has the right to do."

Backenstoe thoroughly translated the decision of the applicant to the residents in attendance. He said that even though the plan had been withdrawn, the landfill company indicated that it would resubmit another plan the following day.