The state could take several months to determine if the application will be denied or granted.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
PROSPECT, Pa. -- Lou Gatto doesn't claim to be a tree hugger, but he knows natural beauty when he sees it.
Gatto, of Ellwood City, and about 40 other people spoke out against a proposed industrial waste landfill that would be adjacent to McConnell's Mill State Park and the Slippery Rock Creek, a water source for southern Lawrence County, at a hearing Tuesday sponsored by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Gatto said that though he is concerned about the park, he's most concerned about his drinking water.
"I'm just a parent who is concerned about a lot of people in Ellwood City who get their drinking water from the Slippery Rock Creek. I suggest to you that there is no compromise for the welfare of human beings," he said.
The hearing at the Prospect Fire Hall in Butler County was part of the application process that Sechan Limestone Industries Inc. must go through before the state decides if it will grant a permit.
State officials are now weighing the harms and benefits of the proposed landfill.
This portion of the application process could take several months to complete, said Joel Fair, DEP's permits section engineer. If the DEP finds more harms than benefits, the application will be denied, he said.
The landfill would cover about 50 acres on a 200-acre plot just west of the park, said Peter Witko of Malcolm Pirnie Engineering, the New Jersey-based firm handling all engineering for Sechan.
Witko outlined the construction plans for the landfill and how Sechan would handle any problems.
The landfill would accept only industrial waste, which could include sludge, fly ash and other items.
The good and the bad
Witko said the landfill will benefit the area in several ways including $30 million to $40 million in construction costs, create anywhere from a dozen to 30 new jobs and increase the land's tax value.
It also would rehabilitate the area which is now an abandoned strip mine, he said.
The proposed landfill would straddle the Lawrence and Butler county lines; most of the landfill would be in Butler County.
A string of public officials, geologists and nature lovers spoke against the landfill, citing its negative effects on the state park, the water and aesthetics.
State Rep. Frank LaGrotta of Ellwood City, D-10th, questioned the DEP's decision to even consider giving Sechan, which is owned by Robert Sechan, a landill permit. Sechan Limestone Industries pleaded guilty to four counts of illegally dumping chemical wastes in 1986.
"Although DEP regulations permit him to submit this application because over 10 years have passed, we would be foolhardy to think that we're dealing with a man who has somehow learned his lesson. Robert Sechan is a man who placed his finances ahead of our health once, and given the opportunity, he'll do it again," LaGrotta said.
Sechan was not at the hearing.
Fears of contamination
Lawrence County Commissioner Ed Fosnaught pointed out that Sechan's landfill application doesn't address how it will guard against contaminating private water sources such as wells and noted that abandoned mines are in the area where the landfill would be located. Fosnaught added that the strip mining on the property was done by Sechan.
"They talk about all the benefits of restoration, but the problems were caused by the applicant's misdeeds in the first place," he said.
Others pointed out that there are about 80 other industrial waste landfills in the country, including two others in Butler County, which aren't filled to capacity.
Patrick Boyle, DEP's waste management director, acknowledged that Pennsylvania's industrial landfills still have about 15 more years before they are completely filled.
LaGrotta and Butler County Commissioner Joan Chew handed over petitions signed by those opposed to the landfill with more than 10,000 signatures.
Most speakers were those who use the state park regularly and fear it will be disturbed by truck traffic, air and noise pollution and any seepage from the landfill.