Environmental Injustice class at Bucknell University working with FOL

Friends, we need your participation!  Students from an Environmental Injustice class at Bucknell University would like to highlight the environmental injustice posed by the Keystone Sanitary Landfill on our community.  The link below will lead you to a document that requests that you take a photo and use your own words to describe it.  


When considering what to capture in your photos and descriptions, it could be helpful to consider such questions as: What are the various injustices Friends of Lackawanna seeks to stop or correct?  Why did you get involved with Friends of Lackawanna?  What motivates your community activism?  Who or what has been disproportionately impacted?


Please make sure to use the Photo Voice Template and also the Photo Consent Form if you have other people in your photo.  You can email your submissions to friendsoflackwanna@gmail.org.  The students will write a report and prepare a presentation at the end of the semester.  Thank you!

Letter to the Editor: July 12, 2016

In today's Letters to the Editor, Katharine Spanish gives a powerful personal story on why a mega-landfill does not belong, and should certainly not be able to continuously expand, in the middle of residential areas.

Katharine states, "I bought the house in which I grew up, the house for which I have grand memories as a child, the house where I wanted to raise my own family, the house that my three beautiful children, ages 4, 2 and 1, call home. No residential neighborhood should live in the shadow of a massive landfill.

That is why on July 18 at 6 p.m. in the Mid Valley High School auditorium, I will tell the DEP that it must reject the landfill’s expansion. I encourage others to do the same."

Read more

City Solicitor Says KLS's Use of Green Ridge Line Permitted; FOL Disagrees

Last night City Solicitor Shrive delivered a letter to council saying that KSL's use of the Green Ridge line is permissible. While we have not reviewed the letter in its entirety, we wholeheartedly disagree with that assessment. Thank you Members of Council for seeing this for what it is. We will not stop until the line is shut.


Council members expressed dismay. They said Mr. Shrive’s opinion did not provide a compelling rationale and stands in stark contrast to a letter submitted last week by resident Samantha Maloney that convinced council that opponents of the alternate line are correct.

DEP to hold public hearing on Keystone landfill expansion

The state Department of Environmental Protection scheduled a public hearing on the 44.6-year expansion plan from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, July 18, at Mid Valley High School in Throop.

“We are happy to keep filling up auditoriums to make our position clear, but it hasn’t changed since the beginning,” said Pat Clark, one of the leaders of anti-expansion Friends of Lackawanna. “This expansion was absurd the moment it was proposed. It was senseless at the time of the past two meetings. And it remains preposterous now.”

Read More Here


The Garbage Has To Go Somewhere: Pat Clark Guest Editorial

"The garbage has to go somewhere." In this Scranton Times-Tribune Guest Editorial, FOL core member, Pat Clark, explains the flawed, short-sighted logic of that statement and outlines why we need to be moving forward to a circular economy that eliminates waste, and not backward by tripling down on an antiquated industry.

Excepts Below. Full Story Here

 One hundred billion pounds of garbage already have been deposited in Lackawanna County’s two megadumps — Alliance Sanitary Landfill and Keystone Sanitary Landfill. If the expansion that Keystone proposes gets approved, that number will more than triple.

Trying to justify this expansion defies logic and one of the attempts we hear most often is that “the garbage has got to go somewhere.” However, using that argument to justify this proposed expansion is flawed, lazy, shortsighted and encourages poor policy.

First, there is already plenty of available landfill space for garbage and any argument claiming that expansions are needed due to a landfill capacity shortage is a myth. In reality, there is no landfill capacity shortage on a national, state or local level...

Next, actively seeking and approving landfill expansions is a backward-looking policy. Instead of seeking more landfill space, progressive communities and companies around the world are aggressively doing the exact opposite...

The future is clear and it does not involve expanding landfills. It involves a more sustainable, circular world with alternative approaches to handling waste. However, as long as an excess supply of cheap landfill space remains, and as long as unneeded expansions such as Keystone’s are approved, the sustainable shift will be hindered and any impetus for creating a strong policy to support that shift becomes the proverbial can kicked down the road. In Keystone’s case, it’s a very long road...

...Further, Northeast Pennsylvania has already gone above and beyond the call of duty for society in how much waste we have taken. One hundred billion is a lot of anything, let alone pounds of garbage buried in our valley.

So we find ourselves at an inflection point. Progressive companies, cities and countries are speeding toward a future of eliminating as much waste as possible. Do we want to be part of that smarter future? Or would we rather watch Keystone’s expansion send our area in the exact opposite direction, cementing our reputation as a dumping ground for decades to come?

It’s time for our area to look forward, not back. It’s time to get ahead of the curve, not triple down on an antiquated industry. It’s time to plan for a brighter future, not to block out the sun with a mountain of garbage.

NPR: Fight over Scranton-area landfill exposes generational divide

Thanks to Keystone Crossroads, Friends of Lackawanna was recently featured regionally on NPR. The conversation chronicles FOL's fight to close and cap a mega landfill that sits less than a quarter mile from a residential community. 


The Viewmont Mall, in Dickson City, has spectacular views of the Wyoming Valley: rolling green mountains, clusters of neat homes and Scranton's bustling downtown. But there are a few mountains that look a little different than the others.

"See the sort of messy piles up at the top?" Michele Dempsey is pointing across the valley from her car. "Where it looks, like, black? That's where the active face is, that is where they are putting garbage."

Dempsey is talking about the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, a 750-acre operation that accepts 7,250 tons of refuse in 520 heavy trucks each day, much of it from out of state. Dempsey is the founder of a group called Friends of Lackawanna that's trying to stop the expansion of KSL.

To Listen or read the full story, click here. 

Cartwright: Future Too Bright For Dump Expansion

Thank you, Congressman Cartwright, for being a champion of the environment and a champion of the health, reputation, and future of our area! From Flint to NEPA, you represent and protect the people. We applaud you for your strength and conviction on this issue and for standing up for what is right on our behalf.

I oppose the expansion because it’s about our vision for the future of our area. I think we need to be doing things that help our area’s ability to attract the kind of high-paying manufacturing jobs that enable middle-class families to thrive, grow and allow our children to stay in the area....The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should decline to issue what is tantamount to a 50-year permit to expand the landfill.

"Scranton's Future: What's Next?"

"Scranton's Future: What's Next?" At a forum discussing the future of the area held on 4/18/2016, Michele Dempsey reiterated FOL's unwavering stance, “I’m a huge believer in the future of Scranton, and the future of Scranton doesn’t start in full until the landfill expansion is stopped.”

Also, thank you Senator Blake for reiterating your opposition to the expansion and the kind words about FOL.

Sondra Myers moderated the discussion and some of her comments are directly on point, “We’re not so naive as to yearn for the good old days. Neither are we so complacent as to be satisfied with the present...What we are aiming to do is choose a future that’s economically viable, committed to excellence in education, culture and healthcare, and in general a sense of well-being.”

Read the full story 

Editorial: Permit Case Requires Investigation

Thank you for highlighting this issue, Times-Tribune Editorial Board! Citizens demand that the City fight to uphold the 1990 Settlement Agreement that limited KSL leachate discharge to the Dedicated Line.

Controversy surrounding the massive Keystone Sanitary Landfill is not a new phenomenon. Any environmental matter involving the dump is important public business.

That is the case now as the enterprise seeks a 50-year expansion that would import upwards of 100 million more tons of garbage into Lackawanna County. It was the case in the 1980s as state regulators cited the dump for violations. And it was the case in 1990 when Keystone sued for the right to discharge the dump’s treated effluent into municipal sewage lines beneath Dunmore and Green Ridge.

That case ended in a settlement, under which the dump agreed to construct a dedicated sewer line for its waste.

It is remarkable, given that 1990 settlement, that Green Ridge residents have discovered that treated leachate, the dump’s effluent, has been running through a sewer line serving that residential part of town.

Just as remarkable is SSA Executive Director Gene Barrett’s explanation. He contends that use of the line is part of a permit modification that somehow was not specifically included in the permit.

Scranton City Counsel Presented Petition on Leachate Line

ManyMany thanks to the Green Ridge Neighborhood Association and all the citizens and FOLers who came to the Scranton Council meeting to demand that legal action be taken to uphold the 1990 Settlement Agreement and stop the flow of leachate through the combined sewer line in Green Ridge that can back up, allowing leachate into homes, schools, churches, and businesses or to overflow into the Lackawanna River. Many thanks to the 400+ citizens who signed the petition, as well. You are making a difference! thanks to the Green Ridge Neighborhood Association and all the citizens and FOLers who came to the Scranton Council meeting to demand that legal action be taken to uphold the 1990 Settlement Agreement and stop the flow of leachate through the combined sewer line in Green Ridge that can back up, allowing leachate into homes, schools, churches, and businesses or to overflow into the Lackawanna River. Many thanks to the 400+ citizens who signed the petition, as well. You are making a difference!


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Scranton City Council Presented Petition on Leachate Line

Many thanks to the Green Ridge Neighborhood Association and all the citizens and FOLers who came to the Scranton Council meeting to demand that legal action be taken to uphold the 1990 Settlement Agreement and stop the flow of leachate through the combined sewer line in Green Ridge that can back up, allowing leachate into homes, schools, churches, and businesses or to overflow into the Lackawanna River. Many thanks to the 400+ citizens who signed the petition, as well. You are making a difference!

Read More Here

Huffington Post: Local Group Fights Corporation without a Conscience

In This Huffington Post blog, political activist, Hal Donahue, compares the KSL expansion issue to Flint and highlights the impact of community action via Friends of Lackawanna.

Read it Here:

How very far America has fallen was brought home to me in stunning fashion when I read a New York Times article on how the poisoning of Flint, Michigan was uncovered.



“...Joyce Zhu, a doctoral student, went to collect samples at a Flint hospital, looking for signs of the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’.
“When I turned on the tap, you see this corrosive, reddish, brownish tap water,” she said. “It’s that moment that made it so real.” Ms. Zhu said she had planned on a “typical” academic career, doing lab research with limited application off campus. But after analyzing lead-tainted water samples in the labs in Blacksburg and traveling to Flint, she said, she is considering how her career can benefit the public.
“I grew up in Singapore, where clean water, you take it for granted so much,” Ms. Zhu said...”



Not only did the United States fail to provide safe water to its citizens, it is readily apparent that government at all levels was unable to prevent environmental disasters. Flint was not an isolated event.



“Last week’s major chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, which cut off water to more than 300,000 people, came in a state with a long and troubled history of regulating the coal and chemical companies that form the heart of its economy...”



In January, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported:



“A new report released just days after the second anniversary of the Elk River Spill highlights shortcomings of the private water company that dealt with the spill. 300,000 people were told not to use their water for days following the accident. The report asserts that privately owned West Virginia American Water hasn’t taken adequate measures to protect against potential disasters nor invested enough into existing infrastructure, among other complaints. The report comes from Boston Action Research - a project of the Civil Society Institute...”



Meet the Friends of Lackawanna. A huge local garbage dump (called sanitary landfills in business and political speak) controlled by a billionaire of dubious reputerequested an expansion of Keystone Sanitary Landfill and renewal of its license for an incredible half a century.

Local outrage began building slowly. A non-profit environmental group was officially formed:



“Friends of Lackawanna is a Pennsylvania Non-Profit committed to protecting the health and safety of the local community, as well as the regional image and the environment. Friends of Lackawanna consists of and represents the interests of citizens concerned with environmental matters, including Keystone Sanitary Landfill, Inc. (“KSL”)’s ongoing operations and proposed Phase III expansion.”



The younger professional people of Northeastern Pennsylvania, a region often described as downtrodden, seem to have had enough. Pushing older, usually corporate compliant people aside, citizens wanting a future formed Friends of Lackawanna. Starting slowly with letters to the editor, smaller gatherings and quiet meetings, the group built both momentum and experience.

With the exception of the Times-Tribune Newspaper, few other media outlets appear to have any interest. After all, the billionaire ‘businessman’ influences massive regional advertising dollars through family participation in interlocking boards ranging from gambling and banking to religious education and universities. The meeting last week was little different. Yet, an incredibly diverse crowd of citizens in their hundreds packed a local hotel’s largest ball room to ‘Talk Trash’.

Senator Bob Casey introduced a panel of experts including State Senator John Blake, Mr. John Quigley, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Ms. Lois Gibbs, a long time hero of mine who is Founder of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) and CHEJ Science Director Stephen Lester, a graduate of the Harvard University School of Public Health.

The panel presented information concerning the state process and possible legislation at Federal and State legislative levels. Ms. Gibbs presented reality which was confirmed by the rest of the panel - bodies matter. The hundreds of attendees spoke volumes for both consumer interest and hard count votes. By that measure and by the prestige of the panel, Friends of Lackawanna ‘Talking Trash’ was a major success.

Looking at the Friends of Lackawanna filling that ballroom, I wondered if I was seeing the beginning of the end of America’s new Gilded Age. Local action already has some impact at the voting box. Republican political elites have lost control of their party and populist candidate Bernie Sanders is pressuring Democratic Party front runner Hillary Clinton.

Millennials have the courage to confront the corporatocracy. Gilded Age laissez faire capitalism is again failing faster than communism. The question is not if, but rather when. Friends of Lackawanna indicates it will be soon.

Follow Hal Donahue on Twitter: www.twitter.com/haldonahue

Michele and Pat Join NEPA Scene Podcast for a Chat

Thanks to NEPA Scene for having Michele Dempsey and Pat Clark ofFriends of Lackawanna on its podcast this week. Listen using the link below or download it on iTunes or SoundCloud (Search "NEPA Scene"). It's an in-depth discussion that covers what we believe is the single most important issue facing NEPA's future. A special thanks to our hosts, Rich Howells and Markie Dennebaum for a thoughtful (and analogy-filled) discussion.


Listen Here

Letters to the Editor 3/22/2016: Lois Gibbs

Fight landfill plan

Editor: Environmental injustices are far too common in our country. Issues are ignored. Policies are shortsighted. If no one fights back, nothing changes.

The proposed expansion of Keystone Sanitary Landfill is a perfect example. Nationally, Pennsylvania consistently ranks among leading importers of trash. Locally, Northeast Pennsylvania already has two mega-dumps and plenty of capacity. So why does Keystone Landfill need 50 more years’ worth of garbage? It looks to take advantage of the people of Northeast Pennsylvania and keep its lid open as the symbolic trash can of the Northeast.

Common sense tells us that landfills don’t belong in the middle of communities. They don’t belong near schools, parks or water supplies. The people who live near a landfill deserve protections and assurances that their health is not in jeopardy.

However, unless people stand up for themselves, these expansions often skate through unopposed.

Sometimes, a community stands up and fights for what is right. I was part of such a movement when I started the Love Canal Homeowners’ Association in 1978. Now, through my role as the founder of the nationally recognized Center for Health, Environment & Justice, I am fortunate to help communities stand up and fight every day.

Your community is fortunate. You have fighters. You have the Friends of Lackawanna. We have worked with these organized, dedicated, and caring people over the past year. We will continue to work with them on their mission. I hope that the people and politicians of Northeast Pennsylvania will talk to them, listen to them and help them. They are fighting for your future and they deserve your support.



Editor’s note: The writer, an environmental activist, participated in a local panel discussion Monday on landfills, trash and their local and state impact.