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A 'tired' history

Published October 20. 2012 09:01AM


When politics get involved in an issue, the result can be like a car stuck on ice - the tires spin but there's no forward progress.

That's exactly what's happening at the Packerton Yards, a former railroad repair facility that straddles the Lehighton and Mahoning boundary along Route 209. Carbon County purchased the sprawling, flat tract of land and is hoping to eventually turn it into and industrial park - which if it comes to fruition would produce jobs and add to the local tax base.

Some municipal leaders won't bend on certain zoning or ordinance requirements, even if it means the county could lose a lot of grant money if approvals aren't granted soon.

The elected leaders can't resolve the matter. It likely is going to take a judge to make their decision for them. Grant money is in jeopardy with the impasse. But the elected leaders feel that instead of coming to a compromise, they will spend a lot of taxpayer money by taking the matter to court.

Let's look back 25 years at Packerton Yards; back in 1986 when ownership was in private hands. A disaster almost occurred.

A firm had proposed erecting a tire pyrolysis - or tire burning -plant on the site. At least one Mahoning Township supervisor at the time had given his blessing to the project. Even the Pa. Department of Environmental Resources (now the DEP) wasn't totally opposed, with a spokesman for the state agency stating that tires fall under a "gray area" of DER regulation. The DER at the time didn't consider tires as solid waste unless they were buried. Just like junk cars, said the DER spokesman, tires are considered recoverable.

Without even approval, tires started getting piled in the Yard. Nearly a thousand of them.

A visit to another site that the firm operated gave disclosure on what local folks might eventually have been enduring.

The firm had a facility in Chester County on which millions of tires - no exaggeration - were stored. Employees said they hadn't been paid by the company for weeks.

The zoning officer in the Chester County township said he initially pushed for the firm's presence in his community, hoping it would help to eliminate an existent tire dump and create employment. Instead, it made the tire pile larger.

Neighbors told of the stench from the operations.

Graffiti was written on the buildings at the site, some of the writing threatening the owners of the firm.

After the TIMES NEWS had an article exposing the phoniness of the proposal, the company backed out from locating in the Packerton Yards.

What a mess it would have been had the tire pyrolysis firm put its plant here. It would have been located next to the Lehigh River, where rafters and hikers would have had to endure the smell and possibly the rodents which might have bred in the tire pile - not to mention the West Nile virus risk.

So while politicians are bickering over the site, hopefully they will remember there was a time when something very bad almost located here.

We're sure the county would be good stewards. Since the county has purchased the property, it's a better bet they would never let something so unstable as a tire pyrolysis plant by a failed firm locate here.

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