Decision On Jefferson Township Waste Transfer Station Postponed Until Fall
JEFFERSON TWP. — Township officials will delay a decision on a waste transfer station’s land development application at least until September.
The decision came Monday night as residents and local government leaders grilled a County Waste of Pennsylvania LLC executive for more than two hours at a public hearing on the proposal.
The sorting facility operates under conditions of a nonconformity certificate granted back in the early 1990s after the township wrote its first zoning ordinance and Butler’s Disposal, the local company that sold its operations to County Waste a few years ago, did trash pickup for the town. The zoning maps put the facility inside an R-1 residential zone, where such a station wouldn’t typically be allowed.
As Butler’s did for decades, County Waste currently uses two outdoor metal chutes to move trash and recyclables from packer trucks parked at a higher elevation into waiting trailers below. It wants to build a station that includes a tipping floor to sort the trash indoors.
A standing-room-only crowd packed the meeting room. Some listened from the porch through an open door.
More than a dozen residents made comments, and many insisted that a tipping floor and more business fundamentally alters the station’s use, and so violates the nonconformity certificate. They cautioned the three-person board of supervisors about giving the company too much leeway.
“Once it starts, it’s going to get worse and worse and worse,” said resident Paul Donovan.
Attorney for the project Albert Nicholls argued that the company is allowed to expand and modernize its business, per the zoning ordinance, just not its geographic footprint beyond 35 percent of its size at the time zoning rules were made.
County Waste co-owner and Vice President Tony Puorro told them the company needs the facility because its unique trucks haul trash and recyclables in separate compartments, and a tipping floor lets them better sort the refuse, among other reasons. He said it would be cleaner and quieter because what happens outside now would move inside.
The recycling industry is languishing after China, the biggest importer of U.S. recyclable material, enacted its National Sword policy. The policy drastically restricts what kinds of materials the nation will accept, which drives down the price recycling companies can get for their product.
The station is, by definition, a transfer station, said Roger Bellas of the Department of Environmental Protection, which should require a permit. However, the DEP uses what he called “enforcement discretion,” especially in rural areas where such stations don’t cause problems.
“To my knowledge, we have never received a complaint regarding the current operation, in fact we probably would still not know that it existed had it not been for this process,” Bellas said.
The new proposed station, however, requires a state municipal waste transfer facility permit.
Some defended the proposal.
“I don’t understand how you don’t want improvement on this hill,” said Bruce Faatz, whose property borders the station. He’s lived there for 25 years. “They’re trying to take an operation, which is outdoors, and put it in a building.”
Several times, Puorro insisted that operations would remain the same, if not shrink because it would more efficiently handle the material.
Only County Waste-owned trucks would bring garbage there for sorting.
It would operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Five to seven employees would work there.
It would process 500 tons of garbage and recyclables each day. Estimated daily truck traffic would include in-and-out trips by about 22 collection trucks, eight tractor trailers and about 10 passenger vehicles for staff and visitors, he said. The company also would widen and pave Butler Hill Road from Cortez Road to the station.
Puorro said he was unaware of the township’s rule that a waste facility within its borders can accept trash only from Lackawanna County. Currently, it processes trash from Wayne and Pike counties and part of Lackawanna County, he said.
Township solicitor Anthony Magnotta said that’s allowed because Butler’s Disposal took waste from other counties when it received the nonconformity certificate almost 30 years ago.
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