At his home, located about 180 feet from the landfill, township resident Glenn A. Hoover breathes the air.

By By:Andrew McCue

By Andrew McCue

News Staff

Greg Koontz, Exeter Township's certified landfill inspector, routinely drives a car around the Pioneer Crossing Landfill to complete odor surveys.

At his home, located about 180 feet from the landfill, township resident Glenn A. Hoover breathes the air.

At the working face of the landfill, in an area of expansion permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in 2002, a worker sprays oder neutralizer over a mound of garbage. An 80,000-pound trash-compacting tractor shakes the ground.

Last week a Commonwealth Court rejected the Berks County Commissioners' appeal of the landfill-expansion permit that Pioneer Crossing had been given by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

In a 42-page opinion, the court ruled that the DEP had properly conducted a Harms/Benefit Analysis.

Pioneer Crossing, located off Route 422 near the Birdsboro Borough line, submitted an application to add 67 acres to the 92-acre landfill in July 2000 and received approval in 2002.

"It appears that the courts are ruling in our favor," said Sandra Roderick of the DEP.

Referring to litigation to try to stop landfill expansion, Roderick said, "This is an ongoing saga as there are a lot of cases out there."

"The DEP's Harms/Benefit review of our expansion application was comprehensive and thorough and the department considered all of the competing interests before concluding that Pioneer Crossing had met its regulatory burden," said William F. Fox, Jr., attorney for landfill operator J.P Mascaro & Sons.

"Two reviewing bodies, the environmental hearing board and the Commonwealth Court, have found that the DEP acted appropriately in granting the expansion permit to Pioneer Crossing. We earned the permit we received and we are extremely pleased with the Commonwealth Court's decision," Fox said.

In its appeal, Berks County argued that the DEP did not properly conduct the Harms/Benefit Analysis and that the DEP was wrong in approving the landfill expansion permit.

"It's not a rose garden," said Pioneer Crossing General Manager Tom O'Connor as he drove a truck near a recently completed section of the temporary landfill cap. The cap was put in place to trap the landfill gasses, which are then burned in two flares on the site.

"If they don't burn it, [the odor is] unlivable," said Hoover, chairperson of the Pioneer Crossing Landfill Citizen Advisory Committee. Hoover represents Exeter on the committee and Neil McCauley represents neighboring Birdsboro.

"But knowing how bad it was," Hoover said, "the improvement is phenomenal."

Koontz said his office had logged nine odor complaints in January, with five on the first day of the month. He said in February there was only one complaint.

Pioneer Crossing, which is permitted to accept up to 1,750 tons per day from Berks and neighboring counties, is planning to install a power generator to turn the methane gas into energy.

"It's a no-brainer," said Hoover, who would rather see the energy from the burned gas go to good use.

Fox said he expects to submit plans for the energy facility in April. O'Connor said the landfill currently has two flairs and that the main one is rated to up to 3,600 cubic feet per minute.

Hoover said there will only be one flair remaining, for times when the generator is not operating.

When the landfill received approval for the expansion in May 2002, O'Connor said, Pioneer Cossing opened up cell number four. "Today cell number four is pretty much filled," he said.

The permit allows seven cells, and O'Connor said it will take about 15 more years to reach capacity.

When filled the top of the landfill will be 15 feet higher than the current plateau. Once capped, O'Connor said it will settle about two feet per year.

He said it is not a stable enough base for buildings but is suitable for athletic fields, which can be leveled periodically.

Eventually, as part of the final capping, two baseball diamonds, a football/soccer field, tennis courts and parking will be developed on the plateau.

Sharon Spohn contributed reporting for this story.

uContact reporter Andrew McCue

at 610-367-6041, ext. 225 or

anmccue@berksmontnews.com.

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