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Schuylkill County News

Just in Time: Commissioners to Approve Tame Biosolids Stench Resolution Right Before Election

Suddenly, the Commissioners seem to have found some power they once claimed not to have.

Schuylkill County Commissioners appear ready to send a message – possibly a politically convenient one – to the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection that it should order the temporary closure of a biosolids producer in Frailey Township.

Based on the Agenda for Wednesday’s Work Session meeting, the Commissioners are likely to approve a motion that would say the board “strongly objects to the continued operation of the Natural Soil Products Co. municipal biosolids composting facility” until it completes installation of the Gore Biosolids Composting System. 

This motion on the Agenda comes a week after Commissioners Chairman Boots Hetherington was sharply criticized both by fellow Commissioner Gary Hess and the public for unveiling a letter on behalf of himself and election running mate Larry Padora in which they call for the DEP to order NSP to shudder operations until that Gore filtration system is complete. 

Schuylkill County Commissioner Gary Hess (left) gets into it with Chairman Boots Hetherington at their Oct. 25 board meeting over a letter Hetherington says he and his political running mate sent to DEP over the stench from Natural Soil Products. Hess wondered why Hetherington did that instead of crafting a resolution coming from the current Board of Commissioners. Hetherington said he did what he did as a “private citizen” and not a Commissioner.

The week prior, Hetherington relayed conversations he says he had that indicate this Gore system will be complete by Dec. 1. It was supposed to be done on Oct. 15, per an order from DEP, and NSP is allegedly being fined $500 daily until it’s complete.

What’s interesting in the proposed Commissioners motion for Nov. 1 is that it stops short of doing what the Hetherington-Padora letter “strongly” encouraged DEP to do. 

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Here’s the exact language of the letter from Hetherington and Padora:

“We strongly encourage the Department to order cessation of all NSP operations until the Gore System is operational and proven to be effective in eliminating the odor issue.”

And this is the language from the Commissioners meeting Agenda for Nov. 1:

“The Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners strongly objects to the continued operation of the Natural Soil Products Company municipal biosolids composting facility in Frailey Township until the Gore Biosolids Composting System mandated by the Consent Order and Agreement of May 25, 2023 with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is operational and proven to be effective in eliminating the existing odor issue and that the Board notify the Department of its position and that the Board urge the Department to strictly enforce all laws, regulations and permits governing the conduct of municipal biosolids processing within the Commonwealth to prevent malodors from leaving facility premises and further request the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania to adopt such a policy resolution directed to the Department of Environmental Protection.”

While the Commissioners proposed official resolution certainly is a lot more words than the bold lettering included in the candidates’ letter, it doesn’t seem to have the same bite.

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In the candidates’ letter, they’re calling on DEP to shut down NSP until this filtration system is complete and proven to work.

However, the Commissioners resolution states that the Board “objects to the continued operation” of NSP. It only encourages DEP to “strictly enforce” laws that it’s not been proven the agency isn’t already doing.

Regardless, the timing of both these actions is surely going to be met with continued criticism from the public, mostly due to the politically convenient timing of it. Election Day for a new board of Commissioners is just 6 days from when the current board is set to adopt this resolution.

The current Commissioners have been hearing from residents near the NSP facility for a lot longer than just the last few weeks, when it seems the current Commissioners finally found the ability to do something about this issue when they’ve previously said they were essentially powerless.

Here’s video of last week’s confrontation between Hess and Hetherington over the “private citizen” letter Hetherington said before this proposed resolution came to be:

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  1. Cheryl

    November 2, 2023 at 7:58 am

    Ugh, more last minute pre-election antics from this lazy, inept board of commissioners. Time for them all to go. Write in Mary Jo Moss for Commissioner.

  2. It's me

    November 5, 2023 at 12:28 pm

    Hummmmmm, acting on his own before an election. I’m glad they called him on it. I read the letters too. Really, uneventful for the people smelling this.
    Well, it was a good laugh, if anything.

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