The township is unable to simply pass an ordinance forbidding landfills.
By MARY GRZEBIENIAK
HILLSVILLE, Pa. -- Nothing can be done about a proposed fly ash landfill until owners file a permit application, about 30 residents opposing the project learned Tuesday.
The group came to the Mahoning Township Supervisors meeting to protest the plans for the abandoned limestone quarry on Evergreen Road about a half-mile from the Ohio line.
Supervisor Poncho Exposito, who promised at last month's meeting to contact the state Department of Environmental Protection to set up an informational meeting about the project, said DEP officials informed the township they won't hold any meetings until project owners file a permit.
No DEP permit has yet been filed by Erskine Resources, which residents say is planning to landfill fly ash from power companies on 20 acres at the idle limestone quarry. Fly ash is unburnable particles left from burning fuels at power generating stations. Township officials are unsure what the DEP will consider the project or whether it would come under the township's zoning ordinance. The DEP is similarly unable to determine whether the project is a landfill or a reclamation project until it receives a permit application.
Review: Township Solicitor Thomas Leslie said once the permit application is filed it will undergo a long review process. The DEP, he said, is known for thoroughly reviewing applications for potential harm to the environment and said their long approval process will provide time for residents to object.
Leslie said landfills are considered a conditional use in an industrial park under the township zoning ordinance, and would have to be approved by the township. Industrial parks are limited to a quarry area across from the Mahoning Township Municipal Building on U.S. Route 224, Exposito said.
Leslie told the residents that the township is unable to simply pass an ordinance forbidding landfills because courts have held this is unconstitutional. But he added that zoning can restrict undesirable land uses to areas where they will do the least harm.
The Rev. Robert Dayton, pastor of Mahoning Presbyterian Church, which stands adjacent to the site, said his research indicates coal fly ash can cause pulmonary problems such as chronic bronchitis. "We don't want something dumped in our back yard just because some state agency, which is rather removed from things, says it's OK," he said. "For someone to make a few bucks, this area could suffer ecologically for 100 years."
Grants: In other business Tuesday, Supervisor Gilbert Lucarelli announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has informed the township that grants are available for the $750 water line tap-in fee for qualifying residents. An informational meeting on this and other available financial assistance to residents hooking up to the new waterlines will be set, probably within 30 days. Residents should contact the township office for more information.
Jim Farris of New Castle was hired as consultant to handle the grant applications and all the paperwork involved after bidding $40 hourly for consulting fees. This was half the $80 fee submitted by the only other bidder, Graney, Grossman, Ray and Associates of Grove City. Farris also offered related clerical services at $7 hourly while the Grove City firm bid $35.