Here we go again might be the thought echoing through the minds of residents in the Tuscarora area as the state rears its ugly head once again hoping to sell the idea of using biosolids for mine reclamation once again.
Last time this subject occurred locally it was in an area near and dear to my heart, the Greenwood Pit in Coaldale. This time around the area is in the north Schuylkill Valley between Tuscarora and Mary D.
Many people don't appreciate the importance of understanding history, but this recent history is only five to seven years old. The Greenwood controversy brought several hundred people on three different occasions to the Tamaqua High School auditorium where they were treated like grade school children by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty who insisted while drinking bottled water that the local water was safe to drink.
We learned in those meetings the consultant to LC&N for that project was a former DEP employee and in the end, we learned that DEP was going to do what it wanted anyway and the meetings to get local input were more for show than to weigh in on their decision in my opinion.
What is of interest to me is DEP monitors mine reclamation and mining in general and it is my understanding that DEP a state created entity. What I have not been able to reconcile is how the legislature managed to thrust DEP into regulating the mining industry in the first place for one simple reason. The State Constitution does not allow it unless I misunderstand what I read.
Quite simply Article 3, Section 32 states: "The General Assembly shall pass no local or special law in any case which has been or can be provided for by general law and specifically the General assembly shall not pass any
local or special law. 1. Regulating the affairs of counties, cities, townships, wards, boroughs, or school districts. 2. Vacating roads, town plats, streets or alleys. 3. Locating or changing county seats, erecting new counties or changing county lines. 4. Erecting new townships or boroughs, changing township lines, borough limits or school districts. 5. Remitting fines, penalties and forfeitures, or refunding moneys legally paid into the treasury. 6. Exempting property from taxation. 7. regulating labor, trade, mining or manufacturing. 8. Creating corporations, or amending, renewing or extending the charters thereof. "
I guess what I would like someone with some knowledge to explain how the legislature is able to provide powers to a state agency like DEP to regulate local affairs such as mining when the PA Constitution does not allow it and more specifically appears to prohibit it.
In those meetings, they conveniently downplayed the death of Daniel Pennock who came in contact with similar sludge and died. They also conveniently neglected the results of studies where biosolids or sludge was used to do something similar in a test location and that showed while the metrics they were measuring appeared acceptable, they totally disregarded the amounts of heavy metals present at the conclusion of the study from what I recall.
Besides messes other people and companies create usually under the allegedly watchful eye of DEP, the agency has created its own share of problems. If you recall the mess in the Little Schuylkill years ago where everything the water contacted became covered with an indelible stain of bright orange. In those meetings I mentioned earlier, DEP admitted they miscalculated the size of the sedimentation pools designed to supposedly remove the pollutants causing the staining. They claim they underestimated the water flow. I'm no engineer or physicist but I know enough to have a hard time believing a competent scientist could not have answered the question. They knew how high the mountain was. They could have estimated the water volume in such a mountain as well as the pressure that water would create and how fast it would flow through a certain size pipe. If you know all these facts, err on the side of safety by over compensating for a pool, how could you make such a mistake?
I didn't see them fine themselves for that mess. DEP can do no wrong, but they are perfectly willing to approve placing these wastes in areas where they don't have to deal with the aftermath. Now, here they are again. Let's hope Tuscarora can keep the wolf away once again.