Pa. fines Penn firm for odor violations
Composter plans appeal of penalties
David Griffith
Intelligencer Journal Lancaster
(Copyright 1999 Lancaster Newspapers)

The state Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday fined
a Penn Township composting plant $130,000 for 13 confirmed odor
An attorney representing A&M Composting Inc. said the company will
appeal the fines.
"We've gotten complaints all along, but since it's so difficult to
get out there and smell the odor when the residents call it in, we
haven't been able to confirm all of the complaints," Sandra Roderick,
a spokeswoman for the DEP, said. "We consistently get complaints.
It's not a real heavily populated area, but there are a few homes
All 13 of the violations were recorded since January, with many of
them being reported before the company began taking in sludge from
New York City about two months ago.
Five of them happened during a single week in February, about the
same time it became apparent A&M would get the New York contract,
according to William Fox, general counsel for J.P. Mascaro & Sons
Inc. of Harleysville, which owns A&M.
Fox said the company will appeal the fines to the state
environmental hearing board within the required 30 days, and then to
Commonwealth Court if necessary.
"Absolutely we will appeal this," he said. "They fined us $10,000
per incident, which is higher than any number I've seen in my 25
years of experience. I'm familiar with odor violation fines in the
$1,000 or $1,500 range."
Fox said DEP officials respond to an odor complaint by visiting
the plant along Mountain Road and smelling the air.
"And on most occasions they lasted a couple of minutes and were
gone," he said of the odors. "To impose a penalty of this magnitude
for 13 incidents is something I am quite disappointed in and can't
Fox said the five complaints in February also came while the
company was rebuilding biofilters.
"You're not talking about constant, consistent offensive odors,"
he said. "We're dealing with occurrences that are very infrequent."
Fox said Mascaro & Sons has invested almost $4 million in
improving the operation at A&M since buying the composting company in
"We're operating a first-class facility now," he said. "We don't
have a right to affect anybody's lifestyle, and that's why we've
invested all this money. We have neighbors very close to us saying
they're happy with us, with the improvements we've made."
Mark Nolt is not one of those neighbors.
Nolt, who lives near the plant and is a member of Lancaster
Citizens for Quality Air, said the odor is overwhelming when the wind
blows it toward people's homes.
"We've had reports from up to 10 miles away," he said. "All we
want is to breathe easy and live our lives."
Some neighbors have said that the state failed to monitor A&M
until they began complaining, but the DEP has pledged to stay on top
of any odor problems resulting from the sludge operation.
"We have been working with the residents surrounding the facility
for a number of years to eliminate these odor complaints," Michael R.
Steiner, DEP southcentral regional director, said. "We will continue
to respond as quickly as possible."
Nolt said the DEP has been responsive to complaints, once showing
up within 10 minutes. It normally takes 30 minutes to an hour, he
Currently, five or six truckloads carrying 20 tons of sludge from
New York City arrive at the Penn Township company every day, Fox
said. He said the company is allowed to take up to 162 tons per day.
He said the total volume of sludge the plant processes has not
increased because sludge from other sources has been cut back or
eliminated. The plant is allowed by the state to handle 220,000 tons
of sludge a day.
Nolt said that years ago, when the plant handled only 50 tons or
so a day, there was no problem with odors.
A&M's state permit allows it to turn pretreated sludge - the solid
material left after sewage has been treated at a purification plant -
into Class A compost, the state's highest-quality sewage byproduct.
Compost made at A&M is sold in bulk to golf courses, landscaping
companies and other large users.

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compiled by Ben Oostdam on February 9, 2001