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DEP conducts air quality testing in Rostraver

| Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, 12:21 a.m.
The state Department of Environmental Protection used this mobile air monitoring station to conduct air-quality testing Wednesday and Thursday in Rostraver Township. Residents have been complaining about an odor emanating from the Tervita-owned landfill.
Debby Fought | For The Valley Independent
The state Department of Environmental Protection used this mobile air monitoring station to conduct air-quality testing Wednesday and Thursday in Rostraver Township. Residents have been complaining about an odor emanating from the Tervita-owned landfill. Debby Fought | For The Valley Independent

The state Department of Environmental Protection conducted air quality testing Wednesday and Thursday around the Tervita-owned landfill in Rostraver and many neighbors will be eagerly awaiting the results.

The mobile lab was stationed southeast of the landfill on Lenity School Road near the intersection of Patton Road and received what DEP spokesman John Poister called “incredible amounts of sophisticated analysis.”

Poister said the data will be collected and sent to a lab near Harrisburg. Poister said the specific data would not be made public because the evaluations were “proprietary information.”

However, he said a report based on the findings will be made available to the public. Poister did not offer a timeline, but estimated it would take at least two weeks.

After complaining of a stench emanating from the landfill for more than a year, residents have petitioned the Rostraver Board of Commissioners and State Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, to push the DEP to conduct testing. Harhai received a letter back from the DEP's Southwest Regional Office saying testing would be imminent.

Activist Deb Fought, who has been in constant contact with DEP officials and fellow residents, thanked Harhai for pushing the issue. Fought said her farm has been bombarded with the smell and she has continually expressed concerns about potential health hazards from the landfill.

The landfill recently installed a mist-spraying system to neutralize the odor, and first ran it Jan. 30 through Feb. 1.

At the commissioners' monthly work session Wednesday, residents fired questions and accusations at landfill manager Ron Levine and Rick O'Sadnick, senior scientist for Benzaco Scientific. Benzaco is the company hired to install the landfill's odor control system.

Pricedale resident Jack Kruell accused O'Sadnick of using a compound in the spray that he claims is toxic.

In question was the chemical nonyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanol – that has a global CAS number is 68412-54-4, an established ID number similar to a social security number for people, according to Kruell.

Kruell showed documentation, from the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich, that the chemical's two components are are toxins and “suspected human carcinogens”.

“They're claiming it's safe and skipping over all the other bad news that goes with this product,” Kruell said.

“Would you confirm or deny these are two ingredients?” Kruell asked O'Sadnick, who eventually countered, “Where did you get your chemistry degree from?”

Rostraver resident Bill Callaway, a Vietnam veteran, asked the men, “Do we have another Agent Orange here?” and “Would you let your family smell that? I moved to the country to smell country air, not that stuff that's burning my nose.”

O'Sdanick, who confirmed he is not part of the compound's formulation, claimed the solution was safe and the chemical in question is used to allow naturally occurring oils to mix with the water that pumps out the mist.

Both emphasized one gallon of the agent is mixed with 5,000 gallons of water.

When asked about concerns over the neutralizer, Poister backed Levine's claim that the state had no issue with the chemical composition.

“Our biggest problem with Tervita – and we have a history with them – is solving this odor issue, “ Poister said. “I give them credit, they've been working with us … but this has been going for more than a year now.”

That wasn't good enough for Kruell, who added the landfill provides a lot of money to the township and county. According to Rostraver Township records read at Wednesday's work session, the landfill paid $79,000 to the township in the final quarter of 2012.

“My findings can be confirmed by physicists,” he said. “There's a lot of money behind this. The DEP's hands are tied and Benzaco Scientific is selling the residents snake oil.”

Levine begged to differ.

“It is not a cancer-causing agent that we purchased that goes into this neutralizer,” Levine said. “I know these materials. This product has been used in the industry for 25 years. There's 25 years of history here ... we'd all be dead now if all the things that needed done weren't done properly.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.

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