It was standing room only at last night's Schuylkill Township meeting. Approximately 65 residents filled the township hall, while another 10 spilled out into the hallway.
The group gathered to voice their opposition to a proposal to dump biosolids in the township. Also on hand to lend their support were state Rep. Jerry Knowles, East Brunswick Township Supervisor Jeff Faust, Tamaqua Mayor Christian Morrison, and Christine Verdier, state Sen. David Argall's chief of staff.
The issue first came to light at last month's meeting when representatives from Material Matters, an Elizabethtown-based consulting firm, presented a proposal to use biosolids for mine reclamation in the township.
Although residents came armed with "Stop the Dumping" signs and were clearly prepared to vehemently protest the use of biosolids, the point became moot when the supervisors received a fax from Material Matters just minutes before the start of the meeting, advising them that Material Matters would not be pursuing the project at this time.
A sigh of relief swept the audience, but many are aware that it is only a matter of time before the issue comes up again. Despite invitations to meet with Material Matters personnel and tour another facility where the biosolids have been utilized, Knowles said that he is not satisfied that the material is safe.
"I have a 2 1/2-year-old grandson and I would not want this stuff anywhere near him," he said. "I don't pretend to be a chemist, but I'm smart enough to know when something is bad."
Verdier said that her primary concerns were not as Argall's chief of staff, but as a resident of the immediate area.
"I'm your neighbor. I not only live here, I am active on the water authority. I walk the ball field often," she said. "My relationship with the community was priority number one." Verdier encouraged residents to stand united and behind the supervisors on the issue.
"This does not mean they will be gone forever," she said of the company's decision not to pursue the project.
Morrison also applauded the community's determination to keep the sludge out of their township.
"The best thing you can do is what you're doing right here," he said. Faust, who as a supervisor in East Brunswick Township, has done battle with the sludge companies, encouraged the township to adopt an ordinance similar to the one that his township has in place. Faust related the three-year battle that East Brunswick waged against the state's attorney general.
"We have been lobbying for three years to get legislation initiated to protect ourselves. If they're not going to ban it, then it must come back to local control," he said.
Township solicitor Michael Greek said that the township has an ordinance banning the dumping of biosolids in place; however, they are looking to update the ordinance based on the one that East Brunswick, that has withstood legal challenges. Supervisors Linda DeCindio and Charles Hosler agreed that the ordinance will be approved as quickly as possible.
In other business, the supervisors presented a plaque to members of former supervisor Joe Boran's family. Boran passed away in August. The plaque commemorates Boran's years of service to the community and will be hung in the township hall.
Supervisors also approved the annual donations of $300 to the Tamaqua Public Library and $1,000 to the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission.
Trick or Treat night will be held in the township on Sunday, Oct. 31 from 6-8 p.m. Supervisors encouraged residents to turn on their lights and welcome the trick or treaters.