The Schuylkill Township supervisors will hold a public forum on Wednesday, June 21 to discuss a Reading Anthracite subsidiary's plan to dump sewage sludge in their community, which has an ordinance regulating sludge dumping. The event will take place at 7 p.m. at the Schuylkill Township Municipal Building in MaryD, about six miles southwest of Hometown.
"The forum will provide municipal officials and concerned citizens with the latest information about the dangers of the land application of sewage sludge, and the latest legal tools that have been prepared for Township governments to protect communities from sludge," according to a press release announcing the event.
Among those scheduled to speak are Russell and Antoinette Pennock from Berks County, Pa. Their son Daniel died in 1995 at age 17 of viral and bacterial pneumonia and rotavirus after being exposed to land applied sewage sludge. Since then, the Pennocks have become outspoken critics
of sludge dumping.
Coal Creek Ranch, a subsidiary of Reading Anthracite
, recently sent letters to area residents informing them that it plans to spread sludge -- which it prefers to call "biosolids" -- on pasture and timber land it leases along the north side of Route 209 from Tuscarora to Tamaqua, the Pottsville Republican reports
. Reading Anthracite is a major regional polluter, responsible for numerous abandoned mine sites and the operator of waste-coal-burning cogeneration plants. The company is also pushing a plan to build a heavily polluting coal-to-oil refinery
in Schuylkill County.
The Schuylkill Township project involves Class B sludge from the Philadelphia Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to Tim Craven, biosolids coordinator for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's regional office in Wilkes-Barre. While the Philadelphia plant holds the state permit for the sludge application, Craven approved the dumping of the material in Schuylkill Township via an approval letter
dated May 17.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency regulates sludge as either Class A or B, depending on the material's level of disease-causing pathogens, which can include bacteria, viruses and parasitic worms. Class B sludge contains more pathogenic materials than Class A sludge.
Sludge also contains tens of thousands of other toxic substances and chemical compounds. These can include PCBs, pesticides, dioxin, heavy metals and industrial solvents -- basically, all the waste that gets flushed into a municipal wastewater system and removed and concentrated during the treatment process. Studies have also noted the presence in sludge of radioactive substances flushed into sewage systems by hospitals, decontamination laundries and other businesses.
Until the early 1990s, sewage sludge was typically dumped into the oceans. After Congress banned that practice, the EPA instituted a policy promoting sludge disposal on agricultural land. Since then, there's been growing concern over health problems
-- including deaths -- related to sludge exposure.