Rostraver landfill reps say solution for odor is near
Representatives of the Tervita landfill in Rostraver Township Wednesday assured residents the company is on the cusp of eliminating odor that has plagued nearby residents for more than a year.
However, township commissioners and a handful of residents expressed new concerns over radiation levels from natural gas drill cuttings at the site.
John Schwalbe, regional director of operations, and colleague Dale Burns held up charts displaying the company's progress in drilling additional wells to draw out and burn methane gas through a flare system.
Methane is odorless but mixes with methyl mercaptan gas to produce the foul odor.
Chairman Andy Temoshenka told the four landfill representatives he was alarmed after Burns acknowledged the Tervita landfill can accept the contents of a truck carrying Marcellus shale drill cuttings that was turned away from a South Huntington Township landfill last month.
That truck set off an alarm at the landfill entrance near Yukon because of higher-than-acceptable radiation levels.
Schwalbe said the Tervita landfill has higher parameters for radiation levels set by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Radiation doses are often measured in miniscule units called microrem.
The average annual radiation exposure for a person in the United States is 620,000 microrem, most of which comes from natural sources like sunlight, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The truck at the Yukon landfill measured at 96 microrem, well over that landfill's designated limit of 10 microrem. Tervita operates radiation monitors at its truck entrance per state requirements.
Jack Kruell, a Pricedale resident and outspoken critic of the Rostraver landfill's operations and potential health hazards, suggested the commissioners adopt an ordinance prohibiting any substance over 10 microrem from being deposited in the township.
Kruell repeated concerns that runoff from the landfill is making its way into the local water supply.
Schwalbe, who said he's attended several seminars on radioactivity, said the company would be happy to bring in a radiation expert to address any concerns at a public meeting.
Cheryl Myers, who lives on Lenity School Road near the landfill, said the stench was still present – including an “overwhelming” smell that she described as a cross between cleaning solution and rotting garbage.
“If Tervita would've just solved the stink two years ago, I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't have poked my nose into all of this,” she said, before listing concerns about the environmental impact of the natural gas drilling industry and its purported influence on elected officials.
Landfill officials have previously acknowledged accepting drill cuttings from the Marcellus shale industry, which has accelerated decomposition and led to the odor.
Schwalbe vowed to keep the commissioners and residents updated every two weeks on the company's progress, which includes obtaining a backup flare to prevent downtime in burning the methane and a plan to drill shallower horizontal wells. He declined to set a date.
“We've increased the flow coming out of the wells by 20 percent, but we've installed capacity to pull up 100 percent,” Schwalbe said after the meeting. “What we need to do yet is to calibrate what the landfill wants to generate to what the flare will burn.
“In about 30 days, we'll know how much we're able to pull and to calibrate the two systems. So in my mind, we have until the end of May or middle of June ... when 95 percent of what we're talking about will be installed and we'll see results.”
Commissioner Brian Sokol announced that for the first time ever, Rostraver Township will not need a tax anticipation line of credit. Such loans are obtained to carry a municipality financially until tax revenue flows in.
Sokol said the township was able to eliminate the need for a loan after it received more than $308,000 in liquid fuels grants from the state and a turnback allocation for road maintenance in the amount of $3,440 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The commissioners also said they curbed spending.
Cop car debated
The commissioners could not agree upon the purchase of a 2013 Dodge Charger police car, as requested by Chief Greg Resetar. The final cost is $25,477 and includes the trade-in of a 2009 Crown Victoria.
Sokol and Don Bottman wanted to table the purchase, and both said the transaction was never broached at a work session.
“As chairman of the budget and finance committee, I have the right to be told when we're going to make a purchase,” Sokol said, questioning why the board spent ample time debating the purchase of file cabinets at last month's work session while there was no mention of the police vehicle. The motion to table the purchase was defeated, 3-2, with Temoshenka, Gary Beck and Pat Egros voting “no.” The commissioners approved the purchase, 3-2, with Temoshenka, Beck and Egros approving and Sokol and Bottman in opposition.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.