Tri-County Industry’s first witness before the Pine Township Zoning Hearing Board was allowed to step down on Saturday, after three days of testimony.

Although a total of 15 witnesses were expected to be done giving testimony by Saturday, the ZHB hearing will continue into February at Grove City High School’s large group instruction room.

The hearing is a result of Pine zoning officer Ernie DeSue refusing Tri-County’s request two months ago for a zoning permit to reopen its old landfill because it’s in a residential zone. Even though the landfill precedes the zoning, DeSue argued that it could not reopen as non-conforming use because it had been vacant for 20 years. The grandfathered status is lost after a non-conforming use is vacant for 12 months under Pine’s zoning laws.

Tri-County is seeking a variance from the ZHB to override DeSue’s decision. The company believes it is protected by Pennsylvania land laws because of its “intent” to operate the landfill the past 20 years, but has been held up by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP hasn’t issued Tri-County its required landfill permit.

Tri-County is also appealing the DEP’s Environmental Hearing Board. The DEP directed Tri-County to Pine and Liberty townships, to decide whether the landfill complied with their zoning laws (since the landfill exists in both municipalities). Tri-County attorney, Clifford Levine, of Cohen & Grigsby, Pittsburgh, said that should be a DEP decision, not one made by local officials.

Liberty has been having hearings with its ZHB over a similar issue with Tri-County, including all the same witnesses.

Last Tuesday, Tri-County engineer, James Echard, with Blazosky Associates Inc., State College, used the first day of the hearing to speak about the history of Tri-County landfill, and the roadblocks of the DEP permitting process.

On Thursday, Echard was cross examined by attorney Robert Ging, with Ging Law Firm in Confluence, Pa., who was hired by the Citizen’s Environmental Association of the Slippery Rock Area, which has fought the landfill’s reopening.

On Saturday, Echard took questions from Ron Amrhein, attorney for Grove City Premium Outlets--a neighbor of Tri-County’s that also opposes the landfill--who is with Sharon law firm, Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace; and Andrew Szefi, attorney for Pine with Boehring, Rutter & Bohm, Pittsburgh.

Much of Amrhein’s questions revolved around 138 gas extraction wells that would be constructed if the landfill was reopened. The piping for wells would penetrate the depth of the waste at various heights, Echard said.

If approved, the ending landfill will be over 200 feet, which has been dubbed the term “trash mountain” by its opponents.

Other questions concerned leachate, which is water that flows through a landfill and is treated for contamination. Amrhein wanted to know what would happen if leachate went into a resident’s property.

“I can state if contaminants of concern would come up, there’s usually some sort of dialog that takes place with (the DEP) and the owner (of the landfill),” Echard said.

Amrhein also asked questions about the plastic industrial liner that would be used to place the garbage on--including the waste relocated from Tri-County’s old landfill. A plastic liner would also cap off the mound after it reached its peak. Echard stated that both liners are generally welded together.

Upon questioning by Szefi, Echard stated that the volume of garbage from the old landfill is 1.55 million cubic yards between Pine and Liberty. Echard was not certain how much of that was in Pine.

However, the final volume of the landfill will be 12 million cubic yards, he added.

“How was it determined where old waste is?” Szefi asked.

“That was before my involvement (in 2006),” Echard stated, adding that he relied on drawings from prior engineers for his information.

“How was (the waste location) determined? This has been in operation since 1946?” Szefi said. “It’s a whole separate issue.”

Levine stated that Ed Vogel Jr., owner of the landfill, will address that issue. Vogel has attended all the meetings.

On Saturday, Pine’s ZHB members were also allowed to ask questions of Echard, which were handled by their solicitor, Lew McEwen, Grove City, who moderated the hearing.

Leachate was brought up again: What would happen if it leaked from the landfill once it had been closed permanently?

Echard stated that hyrogeoloists would handle those types of things, and there are DEP standards requiring Tri-County to remediate.

The estimated leachate per day would be 60,000 maximum, including 15,000 of what may be collected from the old waste, Echard stated.

“You have to have a treatment plant designed for that amount,” he said, as well as 30 times that volume on site to store overflow leachate.

The DEP would generally inspect the landfill quarterly or less, Echard noted.

Levine added that the DEP has a program for the township to train its own inspector, who could show up at the site any time. If there were problems, the township would contact the DEP.

Levine showed a list from the DEP of Tri-County’s compliance to state regulations. Tri-County currently operates a waste transfer station at the old landfill site. The company also has a landfill in Seneca, Pa.

Ging objected to Levine’s list and pulled out a thicker volume from the DEP of Tri-County’s violations.

“You show a history of violations, and we show a history of non-violations and you object,” Levine said.

Holding up the thick printout, Ging said he had the complete volume of the violations from the DEP, including the summaries and details.

Levine said his four pages only listed the summaries of compliance.

“Let me withdraw. It’s a DEP exhibit,” he added.

No further witnesses were called to testify on Saturday.

The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 27.

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