By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
ALLENWOOD — More than 90 residents from White Deer Township and surrounding areas crowded into the Warrior Run Fire Department Social Hall on Tuesday night to hear officials from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection explain the process that led to the approval of an air quality permit for a proposed tire-burning plant in the township.
DEP program manager Muhammad Q. Zaman spent 15 minutes explaining that the plans submitted by En-Tire Logistics, of Milton, met all emission requirements and federal and state regulations. Those regulations in large part concern health risks posed by emissions.
“DEP has determined, based on our testing of the ETL plan, that there is no health risk at this point,” Zaman said.
The remark elicited nervous laughter in the audience.
But once the question-and-answer session began, residents clearly were not convinced that the information produced by En-Tire to support its plan was accurate.
Zaman acknowledged that En-Tire would be required to monitor itself.
So why not have an independent party monitor En-Tire’s emissions?
“That isn’t included in the regulations,” said Geoffrey J. Ayers, regional counsel for DEP.
The only way to ensure such oversight, he said, would be to go through a process to change the regulation, thereby holding companies like En-Tire to that new standard.
Over and over again, despite impassioned pleas by citizens, Zaman kept falling back on what he saw as his mission at the meeting: to explain that the data, which concluded that the air quality would be safe.
“But would this project have been approved if it were located near where you live?” a questioner asked.
Pat Parker, of Lewisburg, said, “I am trying hard to be respectful tonight but this is an emotional issue because we live here. A number of us ... I want to really get up and scream because I don’t think you’ve really considered the real effects of pollution this facility could produce.”
The Rev. Leah Schade, of the United in Christ Lutheran Church of Lewisburg, called the data produced by En-Tire and DEP “deeply flawed.”
“Your modeling is based on calculations that are conjecture,” she added.
Then she asked, to great applause, that DEP rescind the permit.
“Take it back,” she said. “Or, at the very least, the public deserves another hearing.”
To which Ayers said this second public meeting, held after a permit decision had already been made, was highly unusual.
“So we do care what you think,” he said.
White Deer Township resident Pete Mackey said: “We are all perplexed why other similar projects around the country were all ultimately shut down and yet this facility plan proceeds. It defies logic.”
At every turn, he continued, “you give the company the benefit of the doubt, but not the public’s health.”
This led to Mackey questioning what toxins might be emitted in the air, including the toxic chemical compound dioxin.
Zaman that there is no acceptable level of dioxins.
“We’re not even talking about negligible amounts,” he said. “It should not be detectable at all.”
And yet, countered Mackey, in every true test of emissions produced by similar facilities around the country — all of which have been shut down — among the pollutants produced was dioxin. To this remark, Zaman had no answer.
The last questioner of the evening was Julee Bertsch, of Lewisburg, who said that the DEP officials were government employees paid by taxpayers.
“You work for us. Help us. Help us defeat this planned project.”
“Well,” Ayers said. “There has recently been an appeal filed questioning the approval. I would suggest you meet with those behind the appeal and carry on with your objections through that process.”
At the end of 90 minutes, everyone was told they had to leave.
A town hall meeting scheduled for immediately after the DEP session had to be canceled, although a group of people decided to meet at the home of a concerned citizen.
The reason for the cancellation of the meeting was apparently because the money to rent the hall had not been received.