State Releases Final Health Study On Keystone Landfill

April 5, 2019

Both opponents and proponents of Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s proposed expansion believe a recently released public health report on the facility strengthens their position.

Dated April 1, the final 129-page report reaches the same conclusions as a draft version of the study the state Department of Health and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released Dec. 14, 2017.

Based on an analysis of 87 samples collected intermittently at three locations in Dunmore and Throop from January to April 2016, the report concluded air quality around the landfill poses no long-term public health threat but can have short-term health impacts on vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women and the elderly. Those temporary health effects could include mild irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, skin and respiratory tract, per the report.

It also found long-term or chronic exposure to chemicals detected in ambient air near the landfill is not expected to cause cancer or other harmful non-cancer health effects under its current operating conditions.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is currently reviewing the health report as it prepares to issue an environmental assessment of the landfill’s proposed expansion, DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said. It’s up to DEP to ultimately approve or deny the expansion, which would allow Keystone to operate for another 40-plus years.

For the grassroots anti-expansion group Friends of Lackawanna, who along with former state Rep. Frank Farina requested the health study in 2015, the report proves the landfill does produce negative health effects.

“If the standard you are evaluating a health study on is a direct correlation to cancer, you’re already playing the wrong game,” Friends of Lackawanna founding member Pat Clark said. “The question at hand is whether or not there are harms being put onto this community. The answer (in) this report is yes, there are.”

The report studies the landfill under its current conditions, and Clark said it’s logical to assume any negative health impacts will be magnified with an expansion. He also believes, given the study, DEP’s decision on the expansion will be “favorable” to the group.

“I don’t think they (DEP) have any choice,” Clark said. “They started with a file that was empty, and now they have a file that gets thicker by the day.”

Jeff Belardi, an attorney for the landfill, and Keystone consultant Al Magnotta both expressed the opposite view: The report dispels the notion that Keystone has had a serious negative health impact on area residents.

“In the context of landfills and transfer stations, this is as close as you can get to a clean bill of health,” Belardi said. “It’s dishonest for them (Friends of Lackawanna) to say that the health consultation is negative in general, and then to specifically say that the landfill causes harm.”

Belardi feels the report improves Keystone’s chances of getting DEP approval to expand.

It’s unclear when DEP will make that decision.

While the conclusions reached in the final report mirror those in the 2017 draft, the final version includes nearly 40 pages of answers to public comments and questions inspired by the earlier version. To read the report and those answers online, visit www.atsdr.cdc.gov, click “Public Health Assessments and Health Consultations, scroll down and click “Keystone Sanitary Landfill.”

Contact the writer: horvath@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9141; @jhorvathTT on Twitter