BY PAT FARNELLI
About 200 people turned out Tuesday (June 14) in New Milford to voice concerns about the potential plan to build a hazardous industrial waste incinerator near the Gibson exit of Interstate 81.
The sanctuary of the United Methodist Church on Pratt Street was standing room only, and more folks filled the lobby and another room nearby. Host Julanne Skinner introduced speakers, led a question and answer session, and provided some closing remarks.
Meryl Solar, a New Milford Township resident, presented a video montage with interviews on potential effects on air quality and several video clips of county commissioner Alan Hall answering questions about the rumors of a coming incinerator and industrial park.
“There’s no plans, no plans for an incinerator, no drawings,” Hall said in one video clip. “If we see something that causes concern, we will address it, but right now we don’t see anything.”
Hall was also quoted as saying, “What is good for business is good for us and good for the community, and we will be behind it.”
Solar asked, “What happens if it is really good for business but really bad for our community? Susquehanna County is being marketed as industry friendly and open for business.”
Hall answered, “Businesses and companies do not have to come to our county and ask permission. We find out about these things when they get to the planning commission.”
The information packet handed out during the meeting cited a Planning Commission report dated April 26, which noted that the Tyler’s Corners group will be proposing an industrial development on lands they intend to purchase on the east side of the Gibson exit off I-81, with construction is anticipated to begin in 2018.
Barbara Clifford of Montrose reviewed an informational packet. “There is no requirement to include or inform our community about projects like this,” she said.
Energy Justice founder and director Mike Ewall, a Pennsylvania-licensed attorney, spoke on “Stopping Polluters with Local Ordinances” and advocated adopting a strategic municipal air ordinance.
Hall was asked how the project would affect roads in the county. He mentioned several major highway and entrance/exit ramp projects for the I-81 and SR11 corridors. “Most large businesses aren’t even aware that Susquehanna County exists,” Hall replied. “Pennsylvania is a commonwealth state. We don’t force anything on anyone.”
Hall confirmed that he and county planner Bob Templeton had met with the Tyler Corners group, the real estate agent handling the property listed for sale, as well as the owner of the property in April. He also said that he had just been informed that the investor group had met with the Environmental Protection Agency, and that he learned that the proposed incinerator was classified as a hazardous chemical and industrial waste incinerator.
“If it is hazardous waste, that is an issue,” Hall said. “We don’t want to be found asleep at the wheel again,” Hall said, noting a landfill on Three Lakes Road that has been an environmental issue for years.
The investor group released some information through the planning commission, but has not held a public meeting yet, Hall said.
Ewell said that there are no regulations on any incinerator for emission of nanoparticles, which are less than 10 microns. Ewell said, “It is impossible to convert thousands of tons of trash into nothing. There is no such thing as zero emissions.”
Clifford suggested that residents ask the county and township to use impact fees to do comprehensive, independent baseline public health and air quality studies, to be completed before any ground is broken or land use permits issued.
She also asked the state to do parallel baseline studies for health and air quality before issuing the air quality permit. Rebecca Roter of Breathe Easy Susquehanna County suggested that residents contact township supervisors to request that they attend the County COG meeting where a municipal air ordinance was on the agenda.
Pat Birtch of New Milford Township said that she has collected more than 100 names on a petition against the incinerator.
Ruth Ralston of New Milford Township said that she attended the meeting to gather information to take to the New Milford Township meeting to show examples of what can be done.
“I’m hoping that if we can stand and speak as a community, we can keep it out of ours,” she said.