Earl Landfill Expansion subject of public meeting in Oley

About 40 residents wanting to know more about the possible vertical expansion of the Rolling Hills Landfill in Earl Township recently attended a meeting held by the Oley Township supervisors and officials from the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority, owners of the landfill.

The meeting, held May 15 at the Oley Fair Centre in Oley, was billed as an effort to educate the public about proposed plans to raise the landfill’s height by 90 vertical feet.

Officials from the authority initially approached Oley Township supervisors late last year about the possibility of expanding the landfill, which currently tops out at 872 feet. The authority needs approval from Oley to expand, and will also need approvals from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission.

Joseph W. Vasturia, Chief Executive Officer of the authority, said a 1990 agreement allows the authority to expand to 884 feet, a height he expects to reach within the next eight to 10 years. The proposed 90-foot expansion will add another three years of life to that.

“We have pretty much worked within our footprint,” Vasturia said, “and in order to gain some additional capacity, we’d like to go up.”

Vasturia presented a series of slides from three vantage points in Oley Township, with each series showing the landfill at its current height, at the 884 height limit, and at the proposed height of approximately 970 feet.

One slide that showed the landfill appearing to eclipse a natural hill did not sit well with some residents, particularly Cory and Jeanne Delancey of Oley Township.

“The 970 height eclipses the hill there. That’s ridiculous . . . that’s absurd,” said Cory Delancey. Jeanne Delancey agreed. “Living in the Oley Valley is a privilege. We are incredibly fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places in the nation. It [the landfill] is the thing you see as you come into the Oley Valley, and it’s not the thing you want to see from your back yard, your front yard, or anywhere else.”

Vasturia said the landfill will be covered in vegetation similar to that in the area, but nothing with deep roots due to the landfill liner. “It will be shallow-rooted vegetation,” Vasturia said. He said the DEP dictates the vegetation used to cover the landfill.

While some residents were uneasy about proposed vistas, others expressed concern about the township receiving compensation in exchange for expansion approval.

“I’m concerned about compensation to the township. We have a letter from the solicitor that says the supervisors want to be compensated,” said Drew Geary of Oley Township.

Vasturia responded that the compensation issue is on the table but that it couldn’t be discussed in public. “We do propose a compensation,” he said. “I’m perfectly willing to have that discussion, but it can’t be done in public.”

Supervisor James Coker also addressed the compensation issue, saying it was of foremost concern to him. “If this is permitted, I’m concerned about what kind of compensation there is going to be for our residents, because they are going to be the ones that are going to have to deal with it.”

Supervisor Jeff Spatz said any discussion of compensation should be a public issue. “While we can say that they’ve been a good neighbor for these many years, we have not as a township received one dime from the landfill. My concern is that while I certainly am not looking to ring an entity dry, I do believe that the discussion of compensation should be a public discussion and a public matter.”

The landfill, formerly known as the Colebrookdale Landfill, was acquired by the authority in 1985 and currently accepts approximately 2.1 million tons of trash per year. Vasturia said that 82 percent of the waste received by the landfill is in the form of ash, while 18 percent comes in as raw trash.

The landfill consists of 168 acres in Earl Township. Vasturia said the authority also owns approximately 680 acres in Oley Township.