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Proposal would push trash away from parks, schools

| Saturday, Aug. 18, 2001

A pair of western Pennsylvania lawmakers are pushing legislation to keep landfills farther away from parks and schools.

The proposal that state Rep. Frank LaGrotta said he'll introduce this fall would increase the buffer zone around landfills from 300 yards to 500 yards where schools, parks and playgrounds are concerned.

State Rep. Jim Casorio said he decided to co-sponsor the proposed legislation after his constituents began returning cards in record numbers after reports documenting Pennsylvania's status as the nation's leading importer of trash.

The Irwin Democrat said more than 50 percent of the mailers he sent to North Huntingdon Township residents several weeks ago have come back to his office as signed petitions. They ask the governor to place a moratorium on landfill development and support legislative action to give local government a greater say in landfill placement and expansion.

'That's an incredible response,' said Casorio, whose district includes the Valley Landfill in Penn Township and a Waste Management truck depot in North Huntingdon Township.

The lawmaker said he was impressed when he toured the Valley Landfill recently. 'But I'm still concerned about the amount of out-of-state trash coming into Pennsylvania.

'The truth is, we don't know whether the precautions these landfills take, such as ground liners and so forth, are effective until many years after they close. In the meantime, we should be taking the precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of surrounding residents, especially children,' Casorio said.

Though pleased with Casorio's support, LaGrotta conceded his measure was targeted at a proposal to build a residual waste landfill adjacent to McConnell's Mill State Park.

The Ellwood City Democrat said the proposed facility's proximity to the historic park and Slippery Rock Creek, which serves as a water source for much of the region, makes it a threat to public health and safety.

If adopted, the buffer provision would likely halt state consideration of the proposed facility, said LaGrotta.

LaGrotta's measure is one of several landfill bills expected to come up for consideration when the legislature reconvenes this fall.

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