Yukon hazardous waste treatment site looks to expand
Yukon area residents who are upset over noxious odors and dust blowing onto their homes from MAX Environmental Technologies Inc.'s hazardous waste treatment and storage facility expressed their frustrations at a public hearing last week.
They are upset over the failure of the firm and the state to solve problems they say are hurting their quality of life.
“You want to do more and you can't control what you are doing now,” said Harold Jones, who lives along Spring Street, not far from the entrance to MAX Environmental's facility in South Huntingdon.
The odor coming from the hazardous waste treatment site is so bad at times that, “I can't eat out on my deck,” Jones told company officials and about 60 residents who attended the two-hour public hearing at the Yukon Fire Hall.
MAX Environmental fielded numerous complaints during a public hearing on its plans to apply to the state Department of Environmental Protection for a 10-year renewal of its operating permit.
MAX Environmental, which is based in Upper St. Clair, intends to apply for a permit renewal by Aug. 19, which is six months before the existing permit expires in February 2015.
The company takes hazardous waste from a variety of industrial processes — such as acid from steel mill operations and cuttings from the drilling of natural gas wells — neutralizes it through chemical treatment with lime and fertilizer, then disposes of it at the Yukon facility or another site.
“If the DEP grants them another permit, that's a terrible injustice. They're ruining our environment,” said James Knepper of Spring Street.
Craig Zafaras, a Spring Street resident, questioned whether the dust blowing off the treatment and storage facility is harmful to their health.
“I've seen better dust control at the carnival with the elephants,” Zafaras said.
Carl Spadaro, environmental general manager for MAX Environmental, defended the firm's attempts to reduce the odors and confine the dust to its facility, saying the company has taken steps to address those problems by bringing in consultants, operating street sweepers to remove the dust and power washing trucks bringing waste material to the site.
South Huntingdon Township has filed a criminal complaint against MAX Environmental, alleging the company has violated a 1966 township ordinance by failing to contain the dust and noxious odors produced on its site. It is seeking a total of $87,400 in fines.
The complaint, filed in May, also alleges that MAX Environmental is storing industrial waste in an impoundment site that is within 600 yards of a township road and has been in violation of the ordinance for two years.
Based on a fine of $100 per day, the company is liable for a fine of $73,000 for that violation.
Scottdale District Judge Charles Moore will conduct a hearing on the complaint in August.
Despite the vocal complaints from local residents, Spadaro said MAX Environmental's efforts to control the odors with odor suppressants and dust coming from the waste disposal facility are working because the number of calls the company receives about those problems has declined.
Matthew Bryan of Yukon, an equipment operator at MAX Environmental, said the dust coming from the facility is no more than what blows off a typical construction site.
But, Toni Bazala of Spring Street, whose property abuts the facility, said she wanted to know what is in the dust coming from MAX Environmental.
“It's all over my yard and all over my house,” Bazala said.
The airborne particles are not hazardous, Spadaro said.
As part of its proposed operations over the next 10 years, it will seek approval to treat mercury in the metals it manages and will construct a 75-foot-by-125-foot concrete building to temporarily hold wastes.
The waste could be piled 20 feet high in the building, said Gary Brown, an independent consulting engineer for MAX Environmental. The mercury MAX intends to accept is in low levels and not in the form of a vapor that come blow off the site, said Jeffrey Funk, MAX laboratory manager.
The mercury MAX wants to treat is contained in soil from the remediation of brownfield industrial sites or from spills, Spadaro said.
Currently, only about 30 percent of the material MAX Environmental treats at the Yukon facility is classified as hazardous.
As MAX Environmental prepares to apply for a renewal of its permit, the company already has applied to the state for permission to raise the vertical height of its impoundment No. 6 by 40 feet. The company is proposing to raise the height at the center of the impoundment site, while keeping the existing vertical walls at the same level.
If it is approved, that would increase the life of the impoundment site by 10 years, Spadaro said.
Several residents complained that representatives from the state environmental department should have been at the meeting. Spadaro said he invited several representatives from the agency, but none attended.
One of those Spadaro said he invited, John Poister, community relations coordinator at the agency's Pittsburgh office, said the state environmental regulators do not attend public hearings prior to the company submitting its application to renew the permit because it does not know what the application will contain.
The department will conduct a public meeting after MAX Environmental submits its application for renewing its permit, Poister said.
“We're never shy about meeting with the people in Yukon,” Poister said.
State Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, urged residents to keep accurate and thorough records of when they small the bad odors, see the dust blowing off the dump site or on the roads, and notify the state.
Regardless of whether the state renews MAX's permit for another 10 years, Spadaro said the company will have to maintain the site and control the pollution as long as it owns it.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.