The Alliance For A Clean Environment
Officials call for hearing on radiation tests at landfill
Monday night, Pottstown Borough Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a public hearing on a plan submitted by Waste Management to scan incoming garbage trucks for radiation.
Council is not alone.
Upper Pottsgrove Commissioner Julie Gallisdorfer has already dashed off a letter to the DEP calling for a hearing, and she said a similar letter will be issued jointly soon by the entire board of commissioners.
“Upper Pottsgrove Township is directly adjacent to the Pottstown Landfill and as such is directly and indirectly affected by the radioactive materials that are and will be allowed to be dumped in the landfill,” she wrote.
Attempts to contact DEP officials and the representatives of the landfill for this story were unsuccessful.
When the application was announced in December, John Wardzinski, district manager for Waste Management, said the plan was only submitted in order to follow new regulations being enacted by DEP.
“We’re pretty much following the guidelines set out by the DEP,” Wardzinski said at the time.
Under the program, equipment and training for which will cost Waste Management between $30,000 and $40,000, trucks entering the landfill will drive
between two stanchions that will scan the trucks.
If any radiation is detected, alarms will sound and the trained landfill staff will respond in one of two ways, depending on the amount and type of radiation detected.
Radiation has been detected at the landfill already, “but its levels are below background,” Wardzinski has said.
But the landfill’s perennial adversary, the Alliance for a Clean Environment, better known as ACE, disputes that, saying the testing on which Wardzinski is basing that reassuring statement was flawed.
Not surprisingly ACE also has been pushing hard for a public hearing on the landfill’s radiation testing application.
“Under the guise of radiation monitoring to safeguard the public from radioactive materials, DEP wants to change the Pottstown Landfill permit to now legally allow alpha, beta and gamma radioactive wastes to be dumped, but not monitor for all of them coming in,” ACE wrote Jan. 31 in a lengthy, accusatory letter to Ronald Furlan, who is the manager of the Waste Management Program at DEP’s Conshohocken office.
Calling DEP’s monitoring of radiation at the landfill “grossly unprotective and incomplete,” the letter expressed astonishment that the state would measure radiation going into the landfill, but still refuses to monitor what comes out.
“No radiation monitoring will take place for what radiation escapes the landfill into our air and water from Pottstown Landfill gas and
leachate, even though this permit opens the floodgates for all of it,” ACE president Lewis Cuthbert wrote.
Calling DEP’s rules a “dangerous deception,” Cuthbert wrote, “the proposed change in Pottstown Landfill’s permit will not protect the public in the Greater Pottstown area, but instead increase our radiation risks. Our health risks from radiation emissions in Pottstown Landfill gas and leachate will be increased, not reduced.” He also wrote “this plan is about rewarding industrial friends of lawmakers in Pennsylvania who may take substantial campaign contributions later, with a cheap way of unloading their radioactive wastes and absolving them of any liability.”
If DEP does decide to conduct a public hearing, Cuthbert is likely to ask DEP officials to respond to the statement with which he closes his letter: “DEP’s proposed new radiation monitoring plan will not protect public health, especially in the Greater Pottstown area where the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant, in addition to the radiation from the Pottstown Landfill, already expose us to far too much radiation.”
He also asked Furlan, “Aren’t these radiation monitoring plans a way for DEP to allow more radiation into landfills (not less) and to legalize landfill dumping of radioactive contaminated wastes?”
But before that question gets answered, DEP must first answer the question of whether it will schedule a public hearing and face those who will be most affected by their decision.