Most Scranton councilmen oppose Keystone landfill's massive expansion plan

It was refreshing to read this morning that most Scranton Councilmen oppose the landfill’s proposed expansion. Kudos to Bob McGoff, Wayne Evans, Bill Gaughan and Joe Wechsler for speaking up. Mayor Courtright’s response is weak. Either you oppose the expansion plans or you support it. The DEP’s review is administrative - has the landfill dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. It’s time to take a stance, Mayor, one way or the other.

Most Scranton councilmen oppose Keystone landfill’s massive expansion plan

The majority of Scranton City Council members oppose the massive, decades-long expansion proposed by Keystone Sanitary Landfill, though the mayor and one councilman remain undecided.

Scranton council President Bob McGoff and Councilmen Wayne Evans, Bill Gaughan and Joe Wechsler oppose the proposal by the landfill straddling Dunmore and Throop.

Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright and Councilman Pat Rogan are undecided. Mr. Courtright and Mr. Rogan said they are waiting for the state Department of Environmental Protection to weigh in on the expansion before taking a stance.

“Obviously, the main concern is the health and safety of all the people. But DEP is charged with investigating this and I’d like to see what they have to say before stating an opinion,” Mr. Court­right said.

Mr. Rogan said, “I want to see what the state (DEP) has to say before giving any opinion … I’m not an expert on landfills and I don’t think anyone on the governing body is.”

The pinnacle of the proposed 450-acre Keystone expansion site would eventually reach 475 feet above ground level, or 220 feet higher than the current peak, over nearly an additional half-century of disposal.

Scranton will have little to no say in the proposal in its neighboring community. However, many of its leaders had strong opinions.

“I think we need to take a stand,” Mr. Gaughan said. “I think that we, as a body, need to come out as one body, the city of Scranton, and make a strong statement against the expansion of the landfill. It affects us, so we should take a strong stand against it. If we don’t take a stand, what’s the point of being in office?”

“I am strongly, strongly opposed to the expansion of the landfill. The health and the safety and the welfare of the residents of this area are far more important than the almighty dollar,” Mr. Gaughan said. “Is that really going to be the symbol of what this area that has become? We’ve got to look out for future generations.”

Mr. Evans believes the large expansion would have negative long-term impacts on health, the environment, real estate values and the overall economy of northeastern Pennsylvania. The issue has been too narrowly focused on how much more Keystone would pay to Dunmore in host fees, said Mr. Evans. He also questions whether the plan is an all-or-nothing proposition and said he has to hear a rationale for such a long-term, huge expansion.

“The proposal, as it stands, I am not for at all. Fifty years is too long, the amount of trash going in there is too much at the rate it’s going in,” Mr. Evans said. “It’s not fair to everybody else in the county because we’re all going to be impacted. The impact is going to be felt by the next generation and the next generation. Why do we need 50 years, if most of the trash is from New York and New Jersey?”

Mr. Wechsler said, “I am against the expansion of the landfill as the plan currently exists. Opinions vary as to whether any expansion is needed. I do have concerns about the height and the long-term health effects that it may have on the communities. Also, our area’s reputation will be further negatively impacted with expansion.”

Mr. Wechsler added that although the landfill impacts the broader region beyond its host borders, other municipalities appear to not have any formal say or role in such an expansion application.

“This is an opportunity for the cities of Northeast Pennsylvania to take a regional approach on how we handle trash, storm water, leachate and fracking wastes,” Mr. Wechsler said. “It is not right that a decision made in Dunmore may impact our lives with us not having any say in the matter.”

Noting his reply is a “qualified answer” to the landfill-expansion question, Mr. McGoff said he opposes the proposal but may be amenable to a smaller, shorter expansion of perhaps 10 years.

“I’m not opposed to landfill expansion. I think we are a disposable society and we do need to have these” landfills, Mr. McGoff said. “However, I believe a 50-year allowance for expansion and whatever height (the 475 feet that’s been proposed) is too much. I would have thought they (Dunmore) could have negotiated something to cut it down.”

Mr. Gaughan said, “I wouldn’t support any expansion at all.”

Meanwhile, Scranton city solicitor Jason Shrive said he sent a letter Tuesday to Keystone asking it for a breakdown justifying that the tipping fee increase that Keystone told Scranton the city would be paying next year adheres to a contract between the city and landfill.