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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Synagro Does Some Shit-Talking at Slate Belt Summit

Synagro, the nation's largest biosolids developer, hosted what actually was a very informative Q&A session last night before a hostile audience of about 70 people at Plainfield Township Volunteer Fire Company. The company brought a panel of six experts to answer questions about plans that Synagro and the Green Knights (now I know why they are green) have for a little bakery at the Waste Management landfill. They won't be baking Krispy Kremes, but instead plan on using excess heat from the Green Knights Electricity Generator  to bake sludge cakes. This will then be converted into Class A sludge pellets, the same thing you can find at any Home Depot. You can see a visual description below. Audience members wrote questions on cards, which were then posed to panelists by former State Representative Rich Grucela, who was recruited to act as an unpaid and neutral moderator.

It was an impressive panel that included Jim Hecht, Synagro's Project Developer; Pam Racey, a Synagro business development manager who has already spearheaded eight of these heat drying projects; John Goodwin, a Synagro engineer who has been involved in the startup and commissioning of biosolid projects for 24 years; Frank DeSantis, a NESTEC, Inc.engineer with expertise in pollution control and heat recovery; Ned Beecher, Executive Director for North East Biosolids and Residuals Ass'n (NEBRA); and Dr. Herschel "Chip" Elliott, who is actively engaged in the national debate on the land-based recycling of biosolids.

Nobody asked why a shit expert like Dr. Elliott would have a nickname like Chip, but that would have been my first question. He is the only panelist who was being paid.

Jim Hecht got heck
Synagro brought coffee and cookies. Though people guzzled the coffee, they stayed away from the chocolate chip cookies.

What are biosolids? To answer that, I have to talk about shit, the stuff that comes out of your ass, unless you're a judge. Shit makes its way to a waste treatment plant, where it is called sludge, but you know and I know that shit is shit. Once it's treated, it gets promoted and is called sludge. Biosolids are treated sludge.  

Let's face it. Until going to the bathroom is outlawed, we are going to have sludge and biosolids. That's just the way it is. Garbage in. Garbage out. The question is what do we do with it. Some like to incinerate it, which can expose the immediate surrounding area to airborne pathogens. Others dump it in the ocean, which kills surrounding sea life and explains that unusual flavor in your sushi. Still others heap it into your local landfill, where in concentrated form, it begins to leach into the soil and ground water.

The solution to pollution is dilution. That's what Synagro makes possible. It makes sense to spread it over a large area like a farm where it actually does some good. We buy these pellets at Home Depot for our gardens. But this audience was so virulently opposed to the idea that there was no way they were going to be satisfied.

Rich Grucela had a tough job. 
I was surprised to see someone like Easton School Superintendent John Reinhart repeatedly interrupt panelists and make catcalls, the very kind of behavior he would punish in his students. He obviously has picked up some bad habits from Ron Angle, who was also there.

Here's what the panelists said in response to questions.

1. Beecher made the point that waste when it arrives at a waste treatment plant is in its most toxic form. But industries with toxic byproducts must remove them before sending the waste on its way. People who work at waste treatment plants are no sicker than the population at large.

2. The biosolids being produced are what are called Class "A" and are free of pathogens. They will be heated to a temperature of 176 degrees, according to Dr.Elliott. He said the heat kills them. When confronted with a statement that the heat would have to be 3000 degrees, Dr. Elliott said that if that is true, you should not drink pasteurized milk, which occurs at 72 degrees Celsius (161 degrees Farenheit).

3. Goodwin stated that 300 tons of sludge will come in every day, and 100 tons of pellets will go out. The remainder is water. According to Goodwin, that water will be released into either the Little Bushkill or Waltz Creek after being treated to remove any contaminant.

4. There will be increased truck traffic, according to Hecht. But it's about 14 trucks total per day. The operation will run 24/7. If a truck is involved in an accident en route, Synagro is responsible for cleanup and has crews on standby. It transports 11 million tons of biosolids per year.

5. Hecht has two concerns himself. The first is odor. There are scrubbers to ensure that the only odor people will notice will be the odor from the landfill. His second concern is the Little Bushkill, which is an impaired stream as a result of pollution that has nothing to do with Synagro.  

6. Synagro was caught up in a bribery scandal in Detroit nearly twenty years ago. But neither Synagro nor any of its employees were ever charged with criminal activity. Charges were brought against a consultant. Hecht said that, after that incident, the company decided to investigate every person before doing business with them.

"There are tons of science out there," said Racey. "The whole topic is emotional because it starts out with human waste."  On the basis of the groans that came from the audience, I'd say she's right. But one woman who held her hand up the entire evening made clear she just doesn't want it. "I don't have the degrees you have,"she told the panel. She thanked them for what they said,and periodically admonished others who were acting up. But she is against the shit bakery.

"This is our community," this unidentified woman said. "You people don't live here. We have the landfill. We have enough. The Green Knights get enough money."    

There were questions about the Green Knights and their money, buy Synagro was unable to answer them and the Green Knights gave no answers.


Anonymous said...

The GKEDC orchestrated this insane crap plant idea and signed an agreement with Synagro to foist this on the public in the name of what? They are a lousy community support group as it is. Their financials show a 4 million dollar bank account balance but a year ago. Those board members who include an elected official of Plainfield Township..which is by rule excluded from serving on the board by their own by laws.. which they ignore. Steven Hurni has no business being involved in this but he is. Green Knight is to blame and no one else for the mess we now face as Slate Belt residents.

Anonymous said...

My experts..your experts. It is a stand off! We don't want it. Don't care for your facts or science..we got our own. Your arguments do not persuade us. We live here and we have enough to deal with already. Take your out of state crap somewhere else and put it in an industrial park
plant far away from any human beings..not on the door steps of pretty Pen Argyl.

joe said...

Bernie, I think you missed your calling writing headlines as a copy editor.

Anonymous said...

Did you see any of Synagro's attorneys at the meeting? Who they are tells you how Synagro feels about their odds in getting the plant built there.

Part of this problem is GKEDC. It's about as transparent as a lead vest with an arrogance that is breathtaking.

If I'm Synagro, I go where I'm wanted. If the Slate Belt doesn't want them, that's ok. They get to have that say. Find another location.

Anonymous said...

Matthew Goodrich is the local attorney representing Synagro.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

WAIT? Your from Pen Argyl? Plainfield Township? YOUR BOUGHT AND PAID FOR- You sucked at the tit of the master for your free money and NO taxes and gifts to all and now want justice? You make me sick. When the land fil wanted to expand you all had your hands out many times for the no taxes via money from the lad fil and also the "gifts" and now want to cry like babies- YOUR BOUGHT AND PAID FOR! Stop your whining and enjoy the reap of what you planted!

You got your free taxes.. free gifts and give me's so enjoy the sludge- the rest of the Slate Belt doesn't care accept the tocks island scum that settled in UMBT and sits home smoking pot with their kids-

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's "you're," not "your."

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:14 If you want to make a disgusting personal attack aimed at someone who is not elected,sign your name.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Matthew Goodrich is the local attorney representing Synagro."

And is one of the best attorneys in NorCo.

sezary said...

Matthew Goodrich, the husband of Alicia Goodrich?

Very fair and accurate article Bernie. Unfortunately, some of the Sludge Free Slate Belt folks in attendance were not respectful of others and do not seem to understand the concept of civility in public discourse. If an opinion or piece of information is shared which does not agree with what they believe, that information or opinion is wrong, untrue or suspect. Some were not even willing to consider the comments of those with degrees, expertise and experience in the matters being discussed. Please know that the Sludge Free Slate Belt group does not represent or speak for most in the Slate Belt. Fortunately for the community, the SFSB group continues to lose credibility. Some in this group have personally attacked and bullied people simply because they may not think just like they do or because of who they work for or because of who they talk to or because they ask questions. Leaders of this group have been a part and have not taken steps to stop this unnecessary, childish and boorish behavior. It is a shame because the SFSB could have built a bigger coalition. Many do not want to be associated with the group because of the way they have treated others and because they have perpetuated misinformation. Facts, reality, science and truth do not matter to some in this group. There are those in this community, who work in this field and have legitimate questions about the Synagro facility, who have stated their mistrust and inaccuracy of information presented by the SFSB group. Many in the Slate Belt are reasonable folks who can sort through the information and make up their own minds. The statement made by the unidentified woman whom you quoted at the end of the article is honest and was eloquently, and emotionally, spoken. There is no need for attitude, misinformation or an "us" vs. "them" mentality. Other people are not our "enemy". We need more tolerance in the Slate Belt, not more divisiveness.

Anonymous said...

Really O'Hare. It is obvious you wrote this for your patron Ron Angle. He likes the idea of free shit sludge for his farm. So here you are denigrating people and their real concerns for their health and safety. All the while you promote this company from the safe zone of Nazareth.

Shame on you!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I factually represented would both sides had to say . Incidentally Angle happens to be opposed to this and was among those were making the cat calls last night. So shame on you for not bothering to get your facts right.

Anonymous said...

I smell it every year as soon as the weather turns for the better and have grown quite fond of it. A pretty pink type of lichens forms on wet surfaces like toilets and sinks in the house, very colorful.

Anonymous said...

Bernie is right, Angle was for the Plant before he was against it.

Anonymous said...

The "unidentified woman" in your piece at the end is Millie Bean, sister of Plainfield Supervisor Jane Mellert.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron has been consistently against the plant in Pen Argyl because of the truck traffic. He and I differ on this one. I don't think 12-14 tucks per day impose a burden. I am concerned about the discharge, but that is not a zoning concern.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:50, She was extremely rude about it, too, but that's her right.

Anonymous said...

Angle is against this when he is in a crowd that is against it - like the Wind Gap meeting a week ago and this meeting - where he got up and started yelling to the audience against the wishes and direction of the moderator who rightfully ignored him - and nobody listened to poor Ron who was probably hoping to pick up some votes. The sad part is Ron probably went off to a diner and told whomever was with him that he hopes the plant comes in. I like some aspects of Ron Angle, but he can be a blowhard (like he was last night) and it's hypocritical and downright dishonest for his position to blow in the wind within a few minutes like he does. It's sad that he is so obviously playing politics with this issue in an effort to benefit... Ron Angle.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, you sound like you really like him. If Ron was rightfully ignored, and he was, the woman who did speak should have been rightfully ignored as well.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Bean spoke extremely articulately IMO - even though it was not what the moderator wanted and she did not follow protocol. She thanked Synagro for coming, observed they have a different viewpoint than many in our community, and made the point that a lot of people have no interest in this proposal, see no benefit for the community, and anticipate nothing but the real risk of nuisances associated with it. Other than not following rules, she spoke respectfully and sincerely IMO.

What may have caused Ms. Bean to come across as rude Bernie, and angered me, was the speakers who took the opportunity after answering a question they were solicited to answer, to go into commentary on how fears of sludge are unfounded, blah blah blah. That was not the purpose of having them field questions - to do PR with each question. This happened multiple times - the woman Jan and the guy next to her Ned I believe. Particularly egregious was Ned did this when he realized the Q&A period was ending. He turned from answering a simple question he was asked to answer to a 3-minute advertisement on how sludge is not a negative to a community. Ms. Bean was right to call them out on that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

But she didn't. She instead thanked them for coming and just said we don't want it here. She did speak respectfully and admonished others like John Rinehart, who got out of hand.

Anonymous said...

"Synagro brought coffee and cookies. Though people guzzled the coffee, they stayed away from the chocolate chip cookies."

An instant classic.

Q. What did Spock find in Kirk's toilet?
A. The Captain's log.

Greener SlateBelt said...

If you don't live in the Slate Belt then you have no idea how hated of a project this is. Its worse than the dump. Please take your head out if the sand every once in awhile

Bernie O'Hare said...

It may or may not be hated, but you can't prove either proposition from the scant attendance at that meeting. I do know the crowd there was unwilling to listen and was quite emotional. Synagro answered all questions they could. I think that many people are concerned about the Green Knights, and rightfully so. It is time to look at their books.

Anonymous said...

Last look saw a 4 million dollar war chest they are sitting on. Public information. It's about money as usual and they do not need this plant to do what their mission statement says they are to do with their ill gotten gains. Green Knight is corrupt.

Anonymous said...

Science and politics just don't see eye to eye..see Trump for an example of this truism. My science fact is fake if you scream it loud enough and often enough. The science then being not of value to either argument..the people decide what they believe who are impacted by the issue at hand. The people don't want it and let democracy rule!