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Official seeks ordinance barring use of biosolids

Published October 26. 2010 05:00PM

Lansford needs to have an ordinance in place barring the use of biosolids - commonly known as sludge - in the community, Tommy Vadyak of borough council's Public Safety Committee said Monday.

He hopes that if Lansford adopts such an ordinance, surrounding communities will follow suit to the material, the byproduct of domestic and commercial sewage and wastewater treatment, out of the area.

Council may discuss the matter when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in the borough's community center at 1 W. Ridge St.

"It's a safety matter," he said. "Years ago, there were two young boys who died ... I'm on the down side of life. It's not to protect me, it's to protect the youth coming up. I'm just looking out for their safety."

Vadyak referred to 17-year-old Daniel Pennock of Mohrsville, Berks County, who died in 1995 days after coming in contact with biosolids used as fertilizer in a farmer's field. Pennock died about six months after an 11-year-old Clearfield County boy, Tony Behun, died after riding his dirt bike across a strip mine where biosolids had been used.

He said there are few areas where biosolids might be used in Lansford. However, Lehigh Coal & Navigation of Pottsville has extensive mine pits in the Panther Valley where the substance could be used.

"I want to get a start here. Maybe if we get something started here, maybe the other communities around us will pick up on it and get one in place in their communities," he said. "There are proper places to take biosolids; it's not to dump it in our backyards."

Vadyak said toxins from the material can be carried up to four miles on the wind. "I want to have a buffer," he said. "Maybe we can get something going here to protect the whole area. This is not a dumping ground."

Vadyak said that the biosolids matter surfaced in 1999-2000, when Lehigh Coal & Navigation of Pottsville proposed using the material to reclaim mine lands behind the Panther Valley High School in Summit Hill along Route 209 between Lansford and Nesquehoning. That plan was later dropped.

Lansford In June 2004 expected to adopt an ordinance governing biosolids, after neighboring Summit Hill adopted such an ordinance. That borough's action was prompted by LC&N's proposal to use biosolids, along with fly ash and kiln dust, for mine reclamation. The ordinance required that biosolids be tested for germs, chemicals, metals, radioactivity and material that would attract rodents.

Vadyak wants his council and those of neighboring communities to adopt an ordinance modeled after the much tougher one in place in East Brunswick Township, Schuylkill County, one that has withstood legal challenges at the state level.

East Brunswick's ordinance will also likely be adopted Schuylkill Township supervisors. On Oct. 6, the Harrisburg Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility withdrew its plans to use biosolids in a Schuylkill Township mine reclamation project. The mine is on land owned by the county and leased to Premium Coal of Hazleton. The treatment facility and Material Matters, the Lancaster County consultant representing it, ran into a wall of opposition from residents and township officials.

Although Schuylkill Township has an ordinance in place regulating the use of the material, supervisors plan to update the law by adopting one based on the East Brunswick Township ordinance.

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