Citing contamination potential, Burnside Township files suit over company’s sludge application plan

mcarroll@centredaily.comMay 6, 2014 

Burnside Township officials aren’t waiting on their state appeal to try and stop a company from spreading biosolids, a term used for treated municipal sewage sludge, on former mining land about a mile from Pine Glen’s main water source.

The township filed a lawsuit in Centre County Court this week against the company, WeCare Organics, of Jordan, N.Y., and is also seeking an emergency injunction to stop sludge application while the case plays out.

In the suit, Burnside attorneys argued that contamination of the township’s drinking water supply is “reasonably likely, if not virtually guaranteed, if WeCare applies sludge” on the proposed site.

Property owner Robert D. Confer, who has a contract with WeCare Organics, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. His property, Burnside attorneys contend, is located immediately above the township’s drinking water supply, and land application of sludge there poses a “medium” risk of contamination.

An attorney for Confer was not listed in the filing, and an official from WeCare did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

In asking for an injunction, Burnside attorneys said WeCare wants to start applying the sludge “at the earliest opportunity” so the job can be finished by fall. Without a delay, the attorneys said, the township and its residents “will suffer irreparable harm.”

“We think this is an important long-term issue for the township,” solicitor David Gaines Jr. said. “We realize we couldn’t wait any longer before taking action.”

In March, the township supervisors appealed a state Department of Environmental Protection ruling that gave the company permission to apply biosolids for mine reclamation. DEP’s decision, based on its conclusion that sludge would pose no risk to Pine Glen’s water, prompted local residents to start a petition drive calling for the appeal.

Gaines said Tuesday the appeals process is ongoing.

The lawsuit seeks to enforce an amendment that township supervisors approved last month to an ordinance governing the application of biosolids.

Burnside attorneys said in the filing that they provided WeCare with a copy of the new ordinance April 17 but have not received a response. The township informed the company that a failure to respond “would lead to the presumption that WeCare did not intend to comply with the ordinance.”

The ordinance requires anyone seeking to apply sewage sludge to obtain a site registration from the township first, and seeks to give Burnside the right to test the soil and each truckload of sludge applied to confirm it is in compliance with state or federal regulations.

Township officials wrote in the ordinance that the DEP, which has approved the WeCare application, can’t adequately monitor the situation.

“It appears the DEP does not presently possess adequate staff to ensure that persons applying sewage sludge in the township are doing so in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations, and so the township must enforce such compliance. ...” the ordinance said.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

Centre Daily Times is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service