Bellefonte offers no answers in biosolids issue

Residents of Benner Township received few answers but presented a unified face during a Tuesday meeting of the Bellefonte Borough Authority.

Residents attended the meeting in the hopes of gaining some insight into the borough’s practice of biosolids applications — a hot topic among members of the township in recent weeks.

Township residents attended a meeting of the Benner Township Board of Supervisors Monday with a plea to protect their water. Water is supplied to both Bellefonte and Benner through Big Spring.

Despite protests and a lawsuit from Benner Township residents, Bellefonte plans to begin spreading biosolids on Spicer Family Farms this year. The borough has spread biosolids on Shaffer Farms for the past two years.

However, residents are concerned because biosolids application is among the highest ranked sources of water contamination in the area containing Spicer and Shaffer farms, according to Bellefonte-Milesburg’s own source water protection plan.

Benner Township resident Greg Jeffries said Tuesday that residents are being shut out by Bellefonte, which they see as the source of the biosolids. The hope is to cut off biosolids at the source.

After a few points of discussion Tuesday, the borough authority members excused themselves for an executive session, which lasted about an hour.

Upon return, authority President Joe Beigle opened the floor for comments, but said that the authority would not be making any comments in regards to attendees’ comments due to legal ramifications. The authority had been advised by its solicitor not to make any comments regarding the biosolids issue.

Jeffries spoke first, saying the biosolids issue was a concern because he and most of the attendees owned property in the affected area.

“For us it’s a psychological impact as well as what we think is a risk to our health and to our kids’ and families’ health,” he said.

Fellow resident Nate Campbell remarked that while the borough identifies biosolids as a potential contaminate in the source water protection plan, it continues the practice of spreading them within the protection area.

“It brings into question why you would spread biosolids in your own zones that specifically call out biosolids as a potential contaminate,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The authority was asked what changes would have to be made to switch to a class A biosolid.

Within a class A biosolid, certain bacteria levels must meet a certain density before application, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Currently, class B biosolids are applied in the areas of concern.

Switching to class A is something that would have to be looked at in the future, Beigle said. It would require an agreement between the Spring Benner Walker Joint Authority and the Bellefonte Borough Water Authority, and would also require about $2 million in capital.

After closing public comments but prior to adjourning the authority unanimously voted to hire legal counsel to represent themselves before the environmental hearing board. The authority also unanimously voted to have the authority water engineer prepare a report comparing biosolid rates between the borough water authority and the Spring Benner Walker Joint Authority.

Benner resident Liza Johnson said following the meeting that she was displeased with how the authority handled the meeting, saying it was aggravating and ridiculous.

“I had just one of my four children with me and only wanted to express my concerns about their health as well as that of the rest of our community,” she said, “but it was quite obvious that they did not want to hear from us.”

Jeffries reminded the attendees of an upcoming meeting for any residents concerned with the biosolids issue slated to be held at 7 p.m. May 15 at the Silver Maple Ballroom at the Toftrees resort.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews