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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Williams Tp Residents Oppose Landfill Expansion, But Seagulls Love it!

Easton has been called the "greatest recycler in the Lehigh Valley" by Morning Call columnist Bill White. That's no compliment. Instead of soda cans, White's comment is aimed at city leadership, from Mitman to Panto to Mrs. Panto to Stu Gallaher to Larry Palmer.

If Easton is the greatest recycler in the Lehigh Valley, nearby Williams Township leaders are the Kings of solid waste. Williams is home to Chrin Landfill, whose fumes murder nearly every Jersey resident who dares enter Pennsylvania from Route 78. On summer days, the smells are so bad I've seen skunks hitchhike the hell out of there. Chrin should bottle that stuff and sell it to the Pentagon.

Iranian problem solved.

Like any filthy rich businessman, Charles Chrin would like to be richer. That's, after all, the American way. So he wants to expand his landfill, and has been meeting in the back rooms with William Township officials and seagulls since 2001, according to Bill White. He also decided to send residents a brochure, "Growing Greener in Williams Township," which makes the absurd argument that a landfill expansion will actually beautify the area. I'm sure most sewer rats would agree with that.

But where the Chrin family is making its real pitch is to the pols and judges. Since 2000, that family has donated $230,350 to candidates seeking state office. $11,450 of that has gone into state senator Lisa Boscola's pockets. Cha ching! But a lot more is going into the black robes of judges who will decide his zoning challenges. How much has he given to local candidates? Your guess is as good as mine - those records are unavailable online.

The Express Times reports that 1,700 Williams Township residents have signed a petition opposing this landfill, and township officials have received over six hundred comments. But forty-three river rats and 784 seagulls are all for it.

Christopher Greene, a Williams Township resident, explains why this expansion should be rejected in a very well-written and heartfelt essay.

"For 10 years, I have called Williams Township my home. Nestled in the hills south of I-78 in Easton, Williams Township offers beautiful views, enjoyable neighbors, and an outstanding athletic association for my children. Williams Township is also home to the Chrin Landfill, located right off of I-78 on Industrial Drive.

"Chrin has been in Williams since the 1960’s. We all produce garbage and it has to go somewhere, so the wonderful people of Williams Township have been living with the landfill in their backyard, doing their part of the garbage equation. Chrin seems to have an interesting relationship with the township and its residents. On one hand, Chrin gives away mulch every year and has donated funds to one of the playgrounds. But he has also levied several lawsuits against the township costing residents significant sums of dollars (over $160,000 in one case alone). In another of those lawsuits (still pending), supervisors are named directly.

"Chrin recently began negotiations with the township to allow for an expansion to the landfill. This expansion would come in the form of a zoning change - allowing 22 acres now zoned for Light Industrial to be zoned for landfill use - after which Chrin would have to gain DEP approval. On December 18, 2007, residents of Williams Township were invited to an informational meeting held at the Philip Lauer Middle School. During that meeting, Chrin and the township supervisors together were selling the idea of the landfill expansion with a 13 page PowerPoint presentation. Residents had an option of making comments and were told that they could post comments to the township website until January 14th. Residents also attended the regularly scheduled supervisors' meeting on January 7, 2008 to ask further questions. In total, residents have submitted more than 600 comments to the supervisors, most being against the landfill. An action committee (Committee to Save Williams Township) has also collected over 1,700 signatures on a petition against the landfill expansion. No doubt, more signatures are on their way.

"I am personally against allowing the expansion of the landfill. First off, the expansion makes no business sense. While the proposal increases the municipal host fee, it does so slowly over time and never reaches the current state average for host fees. So Williams gets an expanded landfill that yields little, if any, positive revenue. Not only that, there is no formal proposal for the expansion. Residents only have the PowerPoint presentation to go on – no formal proposal for residents to understand all the terms and conditions associated with the expansion. Secondly, the township supervisors have done no due diligence. No financial impact study has been done (property devaluation, effects of inflation on any increased host fees, etc.) nor has any environmental or health impact study been done. The supervisors appear to be flying blind.

"Chrin does offer a few 'incentives' in the PowerPoint such as open space, athletic playing fields, and a promise to drop litigation against the township. None of these incentives is worthy in my opinion. Last time I checked, land adjacent to a landfill is pretty much useless so any open space offered would remain as open space even if Chrin didn’t give it to the township. As the landfill exists today, portions have been labeled as a Superfund site. The proposed athletic fields sit adjacent to the landfill property. The last thing that I want is for my children (or anyone else’s children) to be breathing in toxins and carcinogens on a regular basis. As far as the promise to drop litigation – I truly question the ethics of such a negotiation tactic on Chrin’s behalf. Any supervisor with a lawsuit over his or her head, would be making decisions under duress.

"The last reason I oppose the landfill is that such a zoning change will set the precedent for more landfills in Williams Township. If the supervisors change the zoning for one landfill, all one needs is a 100-acre plot of land, zoning change, and you now have yourself a brand new landfill. A comprehensive plan was put in place in 2000 (which Chrin agreed to) limiting the expansion of the landfill back then. Why isn’t that plan enforced? What has changed?

"Regardless whether you agree with the landfill expansion, what bothers me more is the method and process the supervisors have engaged in during these negotiations. Such methods and processes make me wonder what else is going on in Williams Township.

"As stated, the supervisors were 'selling' the idea of the expansion to residents at the initial informational meeting to the point where residents were asking whose side the supervisors were on. Most of the negotiations with Chrin have gone on behind closed doors in 'executive session' – even so far as meeting at Chrin’s location. Meetings regarding the negotiations have been barely posted (I found one for a January 8th meeting conveniently posted behind a Christmas wreath at the municipal building). When asked for minutes of executive sessions, the township manager has maintained residents are not allowed to such information.

"This makes me wonder if the supervisors are looking to allow the landfill expansion so they can get ANY increase in the municipal host fee to help pay for their 'Taj Mahal' of a public works building ($3.2 million -14 bay ultimate garage). When the township is looking to spend $130,000 on kitchen furniture in this new building, I begin to wonder – where’s the money going? So when residents asked for access to the general ledger of the township and our solicitor maintains that residents are not allowed to such information, I again question the ethics in Williams Township.

"At the end of the day, Williams Township has been living with a landfill in their back yard for years. We have had the understanding since 2000 that no expansion would be allowed. Now, supervisors will go back on their original word. In the meantime, we have supervisors conducting closed-door executive sessions under legal duress and residents are allowed little if any access to pertinent information in the dealings of our township, including financial dealings of the township. Whether you are for the landfill or not – one must recognize that the governing methods of Williams Township are questionable at best."


Anonymous said...

100% OT Bernardo but what happened to the MC forum. Did the MC pull it? You can't access it or topix.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I just checked a comment from a story published on Sunday and topix was still up. I also checked a 1/29 editorial, which contained all kinds of slurs against Allentown's Puerto Rican population. It was up thius afternoon, but is down now. I saw the comments feature is still up on other stories.

Anonymous said...

Hey, wasn't a certain county councilman a township supervisor back in 2001... when you say that the back-room talks started?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:37,

I'm aware of no member of county council who previously sat on the Williams Tp Board of Supervisors. Bill White is actually the person who notes how long these back room negotiations have been going on. He makes clear they have occurred with three different boards.

Brian Thomas said...

When I read the “Mythbusters” in Mr. Chrin’s Growing Greener in Williams Township brochure I was taken aback. He states: “the so-called Superfund site is a defunct, unlined landfill that was begun and operated by others, Chrin took over that facility and shut it down in 1988, completing regulatory closure in 1993.”

Fortunately the history of his landfill is contained in the EPA’s administrative record available for free on the Federal government’s Superfund site. http://loggerhead.epa.gov/arweb/public/search_results.jsp?siteid=PAD980508493# This record reveals that Chrin purchased the property in 1958. Prior to this purchase the property was undeveloped and mostly wooded -- photos from 1947 reveal two areas each approximately two acres in size that were likely used as an open dump. The 30-acre unlined landfill that the EPA and PA Department of Environmental Resources required to be closed only ever had one operator – the Chrin Brothers.

While the EPA determined that it was not possible to conclusively prove that the Chrin landfill was the cause of the contamination found in Glendon private wells, a 1986 EPA report states “it appears that Chrin landfill is contaminating the groundwater.” Further the EPA documents numerous allegations of Chrin accepting hazardous waste prior to the closing of the unlined portion of the landfill – these allegations were supported by manifest records obtained by a local citizen group (SOLVE) from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Division of Water Pollution.

Mr. Chrin’s willingness to make such deceptive statements to his “neighbors” in Williams Township about a matter documented on a publicly available government web site causes me to wonder what he might be willing to say when it is not so easy to determine the real story.

Brian Thomas

Bernie O'Hare said...

Most of you already know this, but I'm an idiot. I totally forgot that John Cusick, who sits on NC Council, was formerly a memeber of the Williams Tp Board of Supervisors.

Anonymous said...

Finally, some straight talk on this subject. . . . . .. The crafty words about when this landfill was purchased, and when it became a “superfund” site, its current status and all the other wonderful things this landfill supposedly does for the Williams Township economy, home values, and the health and safety of the its residents I think has been recently misrepresented. The Chrin “editorial staff” has been working overtime to window dress this landfill expansion proposal because they are experiencing what they feared all along - OPPOSITION. In the recent Chrin “Mythbusters” mailer, a statement coming directly from Charles Chrin (photo and all), he writes, “Since I co-founded Chrin Brother here 54 years ago, I believed in giving back . . . “ 54 years ago would time stamp Chrin’s involvement with the now Chrin Landfill sometime in 1953. The date of record when the Chrin Landfill became classified as a “superfund” site, as well as the known extent of contamination, and the ongoing remedies are well documented, and a matter of public record. Chrin’s less tangible claims, found in their recent “Mythbusters” propaganda, touting the great benefits this neighborly business brings to Williams Township including the home valve appreciation and recreational amenities, are more a matter of personal opinion, but lack in principle.

Face it, who doesn’t believe that the people in Williams Township are overwhelmingly against this expansion? It’s a small township – less than 5,000 people. From recent media coverage, its reported that over half the eligible voting aged residents, have signed a petition against the re-zoning and dump expansion. This country doesn’t even experience that kind of majority turning out in general elections, let alone the smaller numbers that voted our 3 Williams Township supervisors into office. Why is this issue so hot to the touch? I think it’s a bit more than a “not in my backyard” reaction. As the Chrin surrogates point out, the dump has been in operation for quite some time, and pre-dates many of the homes in the township. That’s true, but those homes that are now within 200 feet of the dump boundary pre-date the dump. That aside, it really doesn’t matter who was here first, second, or who may be moving in tomorrow. If our elected officials, businesses and people alike, respect the zoning laws that are in place and the democratic process beneath it, this issue would not be an issue.

Now, back to the “Mythbusters” propaganda floating around. How convenient for Chrin to make statements that the dump was around since the early 50’s as an unmonitored 4 acre dumping ground in order to establish a long routed history. Only to then create distance from any association to those early to mid-1950’s by playing with a selection of dates in order to appear to have less responsibility for the contamination that occurred at the same location. Bottom line – its on the “superfund” site list, and still is today. It was even mentioned as one worst known “superfund” cases in the US as recent as last week in an unrelated Express Times article.

Are people against the dump expansion because its still on an active “superfund” list? Perhaps they are - Its scary enough by itself. Personally, I moved to the township, as did many, already knowing about the site. For me, and many others, the real issue is more about the dangerous precedent that would be set if the zoning is changed. I say this for two reasons. One, it stinks! Yes, in addition to the foul odors, it wreaks of political play and “on the side” bargaining. Although the Williams Township supervisors haven’t voted on this yet, they have been in negotiations with the Chrins on this issue for some time - they admitted this even prior to their public information meeting. In “Mytybusters” Chrin indicated that the planning stages for this expansion have been in the works for many years. So, some time after agreeing not to ever expand in year 2000, the Chrins have been very busy with this.

The public information meeting held on December 18th, 2007 – yes, I was present for the meeting, and was absolutely stunned. The nerve of the supervisors holding a meeting to hear public comment and answer questions only to react by cutting off the resident’s dialogue after 3 short minutes, never providing answers to any questions. As a concession, the residents were give about 20 days to write-in comments or questions that the supervisors would eventually review. By the way, this all had to be done over the busy holiday season. At the meeting, the supervisors took turns commandeering the microphone to walk around the hall, packed with concerned township residents, to pitch an infomercial style endorsement of this expansion. It was truly insulting. There was so much outrage and passion against this expansion. I can’t imagine that with the numerous unanswered questions and no due diligence or the carrying out of any environmental or economic impact study on the part of the supervisors, that they could get this far into negotiations, let alone vote it through.

The precedent? How about getting what you ask for because you strong arm your way through the process . . . . . . . what the heck, its been couple of years, maybe nobody will care this time. Maybe enough people pasted on, or retired south of here. Maybe so many new people moved into the township and they won’t know anything about the history of this landfill and former and pending lawsuits. Maybe everybody in general will be so busy or complacent that they just don’t get involved this time. Wrong! The grass routes opposition this time around is better equipped, organized, and resourceful than anybody would have imagined. Sad, that something so sensitive to this community for so many years would get such little consideration from the Williams Township Supervisors. Don’t believe me - just do a Google search and check back through the pages and pages on this subject. The internet is an amazing tool. Sure, you can’t believe everything you read out there, but you’ll see. Try some of you own ‘mythbusting” Oh and, just for extra measure, and in case that’s not enough, file a bunch of lawsuits leading up to the actual proposal. Those will just happen to go away if our elected supervisors come through with a yes vote. Is that legal? I don’t know. I’d say it’s a bit unethical. Secondly, if our Township Supervisors vote something of this nature through, and under these circumstances, a precedent is now set for future businesses to come in, buy up some land, and propose to site a toxic waste dump or whatever – no matter the zoning. If there is opposition, just scare up a few lawsuits until you get what you want.

One could argue, its Chrin’s land, he has the right. It is his land, and he has plenty of rights to do what he wants so long as it adheres to the zoning laws and township ordinances. I am so tired of self serving groups trying to re-write zoning laws and even the Constitution of the USA – just trashing the entire democratic process. The supervisors have heard the voices of their constituents loud and clear. I hope that the postponement of their vote, that was to take place on the 24th of January, was to give them enough time to open their eyes and ears to what is blatantly obvious to the residents and neighbors of this township.

One more thing - the last I checked, people are worth one vote regardless of who they are. Companies don’t get votes. The supervisors represent the peoples vote! Lets see what they do with it. Everybody, I mean everybody - WILL be watching!

S Porter
Williams Twp

Bernie O'Hare said...

S Porter & Brian,

I thank both of you for your eloquent and informative remarks. If they are representative of the 600 comments in the possession of Williams Tp Supervisors, this proposed expansion has to fail.