PA HOMEPAGE Coverage: DOH Meeting

THROOP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - Economic benefits versus potential health risks, that's been the battle people living near the keystone sanitary landfill have been fighting.

The Department of Health has been tracking issues near the dump in Lackawanna County. Tonight, the public heard their findings.

After reporting on a two year study, the DoH say there is no major health risk as the landfill sits right now.

Nearly 200 residents of Throop and Dunmore wanted to hear what the Department of Health had to say about the air coming from the Keystone Sanitary Landfill.

Pat Clark of the group “Friends of Lackawanna” said, "What did it actually find and what are the concerns and most importantly what are the risks moving forward?"

Some call the landfill an eyesore with a chemical smell.

Twice in 2015 and once in 2016 the DoH conducted air monitoring three months at a time. They found spikes of chemicals in the air.

Of the health risks involved with those spikes, PA Department of Health representative Sharon Watkins said, "Short term transitory health effects. Maybe like a headache or eye iteration or throat iteration. "

The study was pushed by advocates against expanding the landfill up or out.

"What they're looking to do is triple the landfill in size, if you do the math over time it's not going to get smaller and the health concerns are not going to get less” said Clark.

Albert Magnotta, a keystone consultant, said "They didn't correlate the wind direction and the consideration of the particular. So, there is no way that they can even remotely say they came from keystone."

Without doubt the DoH says their findings come from the landfill.

Many who work, live, and breathe near the 'fill are worried about young students.

"(Kids) trying to enjoy a simple day at recess while their eyes tear and they struggle to breath should be appalling to everyone in this room" said Danna Dixon, a secretary on the Mid Valley School Board.

Before the study residents asked about the cancer risk.

The department of health says there is no risk to the deadly disease short or long term.

The department of environmental protection is continuing to accept public comment through February 14th. The answers will be provided in its final document in June.

To submit a question DEP will take public comment on their website. 

FOX56 News Recap: DOH Meeting

THROOP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WOLF) — "Why is the landfill open if kids can get sick?" asked Dennis Dempsy, a boy from South Abington.

Monday night Pennsylvania Department of Health officials presented their findings on a study of the air quality surrounding Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Dunmore and Throop boroughs.

 

During a three month health risk study they found some spikes in chemical emissions above standards that may cause short term health effects like nose, throat, and eye irritation.

They said these spikes may be outliers and not the norm for surrounding air.

A twelfth grader from Old Forge questioned the board of officials, citing what she'd learned about outliers from a high school stats class.

"Anytime a kid can't go outside cause they could get a nosebleed or their throat could hurt, that's when an outlier in data means something."

Borough residents have expressed concerns over air quality for years.

In February 2015 the PA DOH received a request to conduct an environmental health study, with their first assessment letter being issued in October of that year.

Their most recent report came in December of 2017.

The DOH said the effects discovered may just be short-term.

"They're transitory, so what that means is that once the odor is gone or to move away from that site, those symptoms should go away," said one DOH official.

The DOH said long-term exposure to the surrounding air isn't expected to cause more harmful illnesses such as cancer.

But people questioned how accurate the study could be if it only took a three-month sample, and monitored air that was not in the direction of the prevailing winds.

"There's no chronic study here. This is a very, extremely limited study that was not modeled on a fifty-year landfill. What's the relevancy, why are you even here?" asked one woman.

"They provided the community with some data about what chemicals and compounds and air quality you're currently experiencing and what health risks we can estimate based on those compounds found," responded Dr. Sharon Watkins, with the PA Department of Health,

Health officials also say it's not conclusive of what could happen in the future, and if the landfill moves forward with expansion.

"During those twenty months may not he what is happening today or may not happen tomorrow, or if the landfill is given permission to expand we may not know what will happen," said another DOH official.

The DOH is now recommending that DEP oversee landfill activities and enforce regulations. They will be taking public until February 14th via email at env-concern.health@pa.gov.

Scranton Times Recap: DOH Meeting

State, federal officials discuss Keystone landfill report

Excerpt

 

It did, however, note that four chemicals were detected at one-day concentrations that can have temporary negative health effects — including mild irritation of the eyes, throat, nose, skin and respiratory tract — on pregnant woman, children, older people, individuals with respiratory problems and other “sensitive populations.”

Calling the scope of the report “extremely limited,” Dunmore resident Janet Brier questioned its overall relevancy.

“By your own admission, this is a very limited study,” she said. “You didn’t take any data during the summer months, July, August, September, when ... the air quality is completely different. You didn’t take any air quality samples in the landfill. ... My question to you is, what’s the relevancy of this study really?”

The report explored what chemicals residents may be exposed to and what health effects those chemicals can have, state epidemiologist Sharon Watkins, Ph.D., said.

Mid Valley School Director Donna Dixon, a former elementary principal in the district, said it’s her job to keep students safe, but questioned how she can do that if the air they breathe can be harmful.

“On any given day, we have hundreds of children playing on our playground and on our fields,” Dixon said. “To know that their health can be at risk under the current conditions sent a shock through our district. This begs the question: how much worse would it be if the expansion is allowed?”

WNEP News Recap of DOH Meeting

Residents Pack First Meeting with Health Officials After Landfill Air Quality Report Release: WNEP

THROOP -- It was a packed public meeting with members of two communities and state officials over the safety findings of the Keystone Sanitary Landfill at Mid Valley High School in Throop.

The report was released last month, and Monday night, residents had their first chance to get more information on what was found.

Many residents living in Dunmore and Throop, which surround the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, have concerns about what the garbage dump is doing to the quality of their air.

“On any given day we have hundreds of children playing on our playgrounds and on our fields,” said Donna Dixon, the secretary for the Mid Valley School Board of Education, during a public meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Health at the high school.

This was the first opportunity for people to meet with the state since the department released the findings of an air quality study last month and folks packed into the auditorium for a question and answer session.

“From the testing that was done but there's also recommendations in there for additional testing and that's one of the questions that I wanted to ask tonight,” said Vincent Tanana from Throop.

Health officials say they reviewed data collected at two air quality testing sites, the Mid Valley School District and Sherwood Park, located around the landfill over a three month period.

While it found nothing that would cause cancer, it did find short-term exposure to that air could be sensitive to some.

“Some short-term, transient, mild health effects, maybe eye irritation, throat irritation, headaches, things like that,” said Dr. Sharon Watkins with the Department of Health.

But Michelle Dempsey, with Friends of Lackawanna, a grassroots effort that’s fighting the landfill’s request to expand, says that's unacceptable.

“This study has shown that there are toxins in the air that are putting our kids at risk, and we're at a school with 1,700 kids on this campus daily, and that's just intolerable,” said Dempsey.

However, a spokesperson for the landfill says it has done its own health study which found the landfill to be 100 percent safe.

“It's very clear that after 50 years of operation there's no negative impact on the people in Throop, Dunmore, or Lackawanna County,” said Al Magnotta.

The meeting with the state health department had nothing to do with the landfill's request for expansion; that request is with state environmental officials.

The health department will take public comments on its study until February 14.

A final report including public comments will be available later this year.

A Letter From Pat Clark

As Submitted to the Scranton Times Tribune, January 14, 2018

“An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” The phrase is a dressed-up way of saying that simply because something is missing doesn’t mean that something isn’t real. This brings us to the curious case of the empty records regarding the Keystone Landfill.

In 2014, the onset of this generation’s opposition to Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s proposed 44-year, 100-million ton expansion towards the heavens, the Landfill was described as “state of the art”.

There were no mentions of, nor documentation of, groundwater contamination. Or leachate spills. Or underground fires. Or depressed property values. Or odors. Or health concerns. Perhaps these concerns were over-blown? After all, we have the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to rely on. It regulates the Landfill and surely, it has our back.

The DEP’s stated Mission is, “to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment.” Except, when it comes to this Landfill, it has not.

In late 2017, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) analyzed the process DEP has used over time with this landfill. It found that, “The record does not demonstrate that it [Pennsylvania DEP] has consistently exercised vigorous oversight of the landfill consistent with its regulatory and constitutional responsibilities with just as much concern about the rights of the landfill’s neighbors as the rights of the landfill.”

Since birth, this Landfill has had an insatiable appetite. When initially asked why it needs to expand for over 40 years at a public meeting, a Landfill representative quipped, “because we couldn’t fit 100 years”. And for each request to grow over the past 30 years, the State would follow the same pattern. Read landfill proposal. Consult the landfill’s “record.” Record clean. Growth approved. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. That is how a Landfill grows from accepting 500 tons of trash per day to over 7,000 tons per day. That’s how a local town dump becomes one of the largest landfills in the country. That’s how our Region has become dominated by garbage.

Fortunately, in our quest to create a record and stop this Landfill’s growth, we were not the only group to recognize the failures in this process. The EHB found that “the biggest deficiency with the Department’s review [of Keystone’s compliance history] was that it relied almost entirely on recorded violations, yet the Department almost never records any violations at Keystone, even if they undeniably occurred” which “essentially guarantees that the permittee will pass the formal compliance history review with flying colors.”

The process is broken. The oversight is lax. But is there a record? Are there actual harms associated with this landfill’s growth? Can we create the heretofore missing record? Yes

Day by day, since 2014, we have established, on the record, that the Landfill has been responsible for groundwater contamination for over 14 consecutive years. Underground fires have been confirmed. Leachate spills have been recorded multiple times over the past year. Property values, by KSL’s own analysis, are depressed closer to the landfill. Lagoons designed to contain garbage juice, leak. The regional aesthetic will be forever degraded. Toxic chemicals are being released into the air.

Perhaps most importantly, prior to Friends of Lackawanna’s involvement, there were no records relating to the impact this Landfill has on the health of the region. We requested health studies commence to establish both a baseline and a record. Preliminary findings were released in December, 2017. Fortunately, one of the findings was that it is unlikely that the chemicals around the landfill are likely to cause cancer. However, “cancer causing chemicals” is not the threshold for safety. Sadly, the report also found that exposure to the chemicals and particulates in and around the landfill could cause other negative health problems especially for those most in need of protection - our children, our elderly, pregnant women and medically fragile residents. This is an unacceptable risk.

To get an expansion, KSL must prove, and the DEP must agree, that the benefits to the expansion clearly outweigh both the known and potential harms of this project. At this point, the only benefit KSL has to offer is money. Conversely, the harms are real, documented and now, on the record. And this record, already substantial, was created by a grassroots, volunteer based, non-profit organization. Logic and common sense dictate that if this landfill grows, and more rocks are looked under, these known and potential harms will only grow side by side with the mountain of trash.

For the past four years, Friends of Lackawanna has worked tirelessly on behalf of the community. We have documented the harms. We have done the work. We have developed the missing record. With all that is now known, if the DEP approves this expansion, the message is clear: the people and future of Northeastern Pennsylvania are worth less than a pile of garbage.

Times-Tribune Editorial Board: Wolf, DEP Owe Explanation on Landfill

In an article posted on November 14th, the Times-Tribune Editorial Board criticizes the Department of Environmental Protection and the Wolf administration in general for their sloppy handling of Keystone Sanitary Landfill's health and environmental violations. Just like in the Kyle Wind article posted on the 13th, Judge Bernard Labuskes Jr. seemed to be the harshest critic of the DEP's failure to do its job. As quoted in the article, the judge had this to say:

"We do have some doubts about whether the department has fulfilled its responsibilities as a prudent, loyal and impartial trustee of the public natural resources. The record does not demonstrate that it has consistently exercised vigorous oversight of the landfill consistent with its regulatory and constitutional responsibilities with just as much concern about the rights of the landfills' neighbors as the rights of the landfill."

Click here to read the full article. 

 

State Board Won't Rescind Keystone Landfill Operating Permit

In this article published on November 13th, Kyle Wind reports that the State Environmental Hearing Board declined to rescind Keystone Sanitary Landfill's operating permit. However, they are requiring KSL to conduct a groundwater assessment plan in response to contamination picked up by a monitoring well for the past 15 years. This decision can be seen as both a win and a loss for both sides. The biggest take away for Friends of Lackawanna is the confirmation of our complaints that the DEP has been guilty of vast oversight when it comes to regulating actions of KSL. Perhaps the most criticism of the DEP came from Judge Bernard Labuskes Jr., who in the written adjudication of FOL's appeal wrote: 

"The department relies on formal, memorialized violations in conducting its review....but the department, with rare exceptions, never memorializes an of Keystone's violations. The department has guidance documents that require its personnel to record violations even if the violations are minor and/or corrected. The department ignored these guidance documents with respect to Keystone."

Click here to read the full article. 

 

Four Candidates Vie for Three Seats on Scranton City Council

In a Times-Tribune article, staff writer Jim Lockwood discussed candidates for the upcoming Scranton City Council election on November 7th, specifically their views on the Scranton Sewage Authority and the Keystone Sanitary Landfill. Three of the four candidates (Pat Rogan, Bill Gaughan, and Kyle Donahue) have explicitly voiced opposition to the expansion of KSL, while Tony Dibileo has remained vague about the issue. Here are a few of the article's highlights:

"We just should not be continuously bringing in out-of-state garbage into our community."– Kyle Donahue

"When I think of that monstrosity up there, that has been allowed to continue to expand over the years, unchecked, and the amount of out-of-state trash that we take, it is disgusting....This is about the health, safety, and welfare of our residents. It shouldn't be about the almighty dollar and whether or not somebody throws us a new firetruck or donates to one of the local universities."– Bill Gaughan

"Saying he opposes the landfill expansion, Rogan said, 'It's easy to talk about being against the landfill, but the actual solution is to create less waste. I've been a strong supporter of increasing our recycling in the city of Scranton.'"

Click here to read Jim Lockwood's full article. 

Times-Tribune Editorial Board: TRASH Act Matter of Responsibility

In an article published on October 11th, the Times-Tribune editorial board voiced their support for Sen. Bob Casey's and Rep. Matt Cartwright's bill, the Trash Reduction and Sensible Handling Act, or TRASH Act. The bill is designed to empower states who receive a large amount of out-of-state trash by requiring, "any garbage-exporting state....to have waste-management plans and safe-handling regulations equal to or greater than those of the state where the garbage is dumped." Both Sen. Casey and Rep. Cartwright have shown support for Friends of Lackawanna. 

Click here to read the full article.   

Environmental Issues Addressed, Landfill Says

In an article released on September 19th, Times-Tribune writer Kyle Wind documented the latest episode of the back-and-forth between the DEP, KSL, and FOL. Keystone recently submitted a 264-page response to the DEP's second environmental assessment letter that claims that they have, "mitigated everything to the most current, best-available technologies out there." The response then separates Keystone's efforts into problems "completely" mitigated (such as water quality concerns, increased runoff, devaluation of properties, noise, and road deterioration) and "mostly" mitigated (odors, landfill gas emissions, dusts, pests, litter, risk of fires, unsafe or overweight vehicles, dirt and mud, and the visibility of such a large landfill). FOL was quick to challenge these claims. Here's FOL's Pat Clark's response, as quoted in the article:

"This document and the logic used within it is an insult to the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. They cannot completely mitigate or reduce the harms. In fact, the harms have continued to increase and will only escalate with 100 million tons of garbage piled on top of what's already there." 

Click here to read Kyle Wind's full article.

While Dumps Are Hotspot for Gulls, Reservoirs Are Hotspot for Gulls' Dumps

It's common knowledge to anyone who lives near a landfill that dumps are a hotspot for seagulls. With their mountains of exposed trash, little to no human interference, and a fresh supply of garbage being trucked in daily, what gull in his right mind wouldn't make a landfill his new home? However, not until recently have gulls' effects on local ecosystems been studied. In the articles and study linked below, you will find that a spike in a local seagull population can cause drastically harmful effects on local waterways and reservoirs. Why is that? Well, simply because more gulls means more bird poop, and more bird poop means more contaminated water. FOL has always stressed the potential dangers of having Dunmore's Reservoirs located so close to Keystone Sanitary Landfill, but now these articles show that not only can the garbage itself contaminate our drinking water, but the unwanted avian company it attracts can too. Here's an excerpt from "Garbage-Fed Seagulls Are Spoiling Our Lakes And Reservoirs With Their Poop":

"The numbers are staggering. According to the new research, an estimated 240 extra tons of nitrogen and 39 extra tons of phosphorus are plopped [by seagulls] into these water systems each year across North America. Under normal circumstances, a little bird poop–filled with many beneficial nutrients–wouldn't be anything to worry about. But all of this added seagull crap is contributing to extensive algal blooms, which sucks a tremendous amount of oxygen from the water. This results in mass fish kills, and the proliferation of algal toxins across precious water bodies. Algal blooms also degrade recreational and fishing areas–not to mention the increased costs of local governments that have to deal with them."

Garbage-Fed Seagulls Are Spoiling Our Lakes And Reservoirs With Their Poop 

Trash-Picking Seagulls Poop Hundreds of Tons of Nutrients

The Biogeochemical Implications of Massive Gull Flocks at Landfills

 

Time-Tribune Editorial Boards: Dump's Plan Isn't about NEPA Trash

In this opinion piece, the Scranton Times-Tribune Editorial Board critiques recently put forth benefits of the 45-year-expansion, such as including the selling of methane gas as a benefit to the community. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"A Keystone spokesperson is probably correct that rejecting the expansion eventually will increase local disposal costs due to transportation expenses. But the expansion proposal carries a far heavier price–importing millions [of] more tons of garbage into Lackawanna County."

To read the full article, click on this link. 

Sorting Out Options on Keystone Sanitary Landfill Expansion Plan

On June 18th, Scranton Times-Tribune journalist, Kyle Wind, released an article that considers both sides of the KSL expansion debate in the wake of the release of the DEP's Second Environmental Assessment Review Letter. In the article, Wind quotes FOL's own Patrick Clark. Here's an excerpt from that interview: 

"At the end of the day, they have to prove that the benefits outweigh the known and potential harms. All of the benefits are either removed or about money, and all of the harms have not been mitigated yet....This is an equation you cannot solve. You simply can't come to the conclusion that the benefits do outweigh the harms. And if you do, you're doing so purely on a dollars-and-cents level."  -Patrick Clark

To read the full article, click on this link. 

 

Times Tribunes Editorial Board: Dump Review Doesn't Build Confidence

"Approval of this expansion [of Keystone Sanitary Landfill], which portends far more harm than benefit, would constitute a colossal failure of the state government to protect the environment and economy of Northeast Pennsylvania." 

Thank you, Scranton Times-Tribunes Editorial Board, for getting it right on the issue once again! Please click this link to read the entire piece from the Times-Tribune.

 

 

Dunmore Elects New Mayor Tim Burke Who Ran A Campaign Centered Around His Opposition to the Keystone Expansion

As quoted in a May 6th story in the Scranton Times-Tribune, Tim Burke had this to say about why he was running against the incumbent, Patrick "Nibs" Loughney: "I believe that if we close that landfill after eight to ten years or whatever its remaining life expectancy ends up being, we can bring jobs into the area. We need more manufacturing jobs to keep young people right here instead of having a place where you have to worry about a landfill right in the middle of the neighborhood....I won't give up the fight." The rest of that article by Kyle Wind as well as the official election results are linked below. 

Dunmore Mayor's Race Contested, for Change

Dunmore 2017 Primary Mayoral Election Results

Burke Adds GOP Nomination to Dem Win in Dunmore Mayoral Race

Senator Bernie Sanders Mentions Our Fight Against the KSL Expansion During Pruitt Hearing

Senator Bernie Sanders named KSL during the congressional hearing on the nomination of Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is proof that FOL's fight against the KSL expansion is being heard even in Washington! To read what Senator Sanders had to say on KSL, skip to page 161 of the document linked below. 

Nomination of Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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.

Excerpt:

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.