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Schuylkill County News

Commissioners Meet with Companies Criticized for Polluting Western Schuylkill County

Next step: Meet with DEP, Commissioners say.

Last week, Schuylkill County Commissioners hosted three companies that residents of western Schuylkill County believe are the source of pollution that’s destroying their way of life.

Representatives of Natural Soil Products, Liberty Processing & Soils, and Stavola-Summit Materials separately met with Commissioners on Thursday at the Courthouse in Pottsville.

The meetings were initiated by the Commissioners. Chairman Larry Padora and Commissioner Gary Hess attended. Commissioner Boots Hetherington was on vacation and unable to attend.

In a conversation with The Canary last week, a day after the meetings, Padora said the primary purpose of the meetings was simple: “We want them to be a good neighbor to the people of the west end (of Schuylkill County). I think people should be able to enjoy their property.”

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These three companies – namely NSP most recently – have been the source of numerous complaints made publicly by people who live in areas like Good Spring, Tremont, Joliett, and elsewhere. They believe noxious odors coming from these companies’ operations are making that area unlivable.

NSP is a biosolids producer that accepts hundreds of tons of sewage sludge on a daily basis and then processes it into biosolids. The company has been the primary source of many residents’ complaints. It’s even been fined by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection for the odors emanating from its facility and been forced to install a filtration system to attempt to mitigate these smells.

According to the Liberty Soils website, that company receives “biosolids from various municipal wastewater treatment plants throughout the Northeastern U.S. for ‘lime stabilization’. The biosolids are blended with quicklime using industrial size mixing equipment. When biosolids mix with quicklime the temperature and pH increase while drying out the material over the course of 24 hours. The result is a 50% solids soil amendment that is safe and desirable for use as a soil-liming agent with the additional benefits of enhancing soil fertility and organic matter content.”

The company admits that sometimes its end product can give off a slight ammonia smell.

Padora described Stavola’s operation as taking in pulp and processing it so that it may be used for reclamation. The company performs other functions at its Schuylkill County location, too.

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The Canary reached out to each of these companies for comments on their meeting with Schuylkill County Commissioners and not one returned our calls or emails.

Schuylkill Commissioners Meet with NSP, Liberty Soils, Stavola Regarding Odor Complaints

We asked Padora what the meetings with each involved last week. He said the Commissioners wanted to learn how each handled complaints from the public regarding smells that may be coming from their operations.

Padora also said the Commissioners wanted to learn more about each company’s operations and their processes, such as when they take in materials. The intake of materials is another source of complaints from residents in the areas surrounding these businesses. All require heavy truck traffic to bring in materials.

“We brought up the concerns,” Padora said. “That’s what I kept impressing upon them.”

Padora added that “all the companies were receptive and nice, they want to work with us” but during Wednesday’s Commissioners Board Meeting when the topic of this meeting led to a robust public discussion, it was apparent that one company – Liberty Soils – was better at handling public complaints than the others.

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Based on the Commissioners discussion Wednesday, Padora got a bit testy with the representatives of NSP and needed Hess’ more mild-mannered voice to back him up.

Hess said Wednesday, “If you all know how Commissioner Padora talks sometimes, you’ll understand … it was in a stern way.”

Next Step

From the meetings last week, the Commissioners say their next step is to contact DEP and set up a conference with them.

Padora said last week the Commissioners want to know what power the County has in holding these companies, in particular, accountable for the conditions they’re accused of creating in western Schuylkill County.

He believes the County may be able to bring on a person in an inspector-type role. Now, on Wednesday, he admitted that currently, the County does not have the power to impose fines on any of these companies or force them to close, not even for minute.

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The “inspector” person would, however, be able to file a complaint with DEP.

“The idea is to add to their (the residents’) voices,” Padora said.

This Issue Isn’t Going Away

As part of an order from DEP, Natural Soil Products was forced to install a Gore Biosolids Composting System. The idea is that this is going to mitigate smells from their facility.

This Gore system was to be online by mid-October 2023. However, several delays in the project caused it to get completely finished just a few weeks ago.

But despite this system reportedly in place, it’s not totally reducing the stench, residents say.

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Wendy Madenford, who lives in Porter Township and has semi-regularly attended Commissioners meetings to voice her concerns on this issue, said Wednesday that she has been smelling that same funk for the last couple days.

“Your home smells like a cesspool. Your linens smell like a cesspool. Your vehicle smells like a cesspool. We’re at the point now where I’m even tasting it. That’s how disgusting it is,” she told Commissioners.

***

You can watch the full discussion regarding these meetings during the Feb. 28 Schuylkill County Commissioners meetings from our recording of that session below:

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