State environmental officials are monitoring the
40,000 cubic yards of New York sewage sludge from a
composting plant, after a snow-caused roof collapse
massive, 5 1/2-acre building.
Damage is estimated at more than $10 million at the
Composting plant near Manheim, according to William
Fox Jr., the
company's attorney. The plant employed an estimated 15
to 20 people,
"This is a huge natural disaster," Fox said. He
said a contractor
will demolish the building, and a new one will have to
be built from
the ground up.
State Department of Environmental Protection
officials have been
at the scene daily to make sure the exposed sludge
doesn't run off
the plant property.
Leachate from the sludge has been collected in
recent days and
taken to a sewage treatment plant in Valley Forge,
according to DEP
spokesowman Sandra Roderick.
From an economic standpoint, the roof collapse is
devastating aftermath locally of the Presidents Day
The A&M roof collapse occurred sometime Sunday, Feb.
to John Hopkins, an A&M official.
Fortunately, he said, the facility was closed. A
local farmer had
heard "a loud screeching noise" and called the plant
building is going down," the farmer reported on the
The major facility at the 12-year-old plant is a
fabricated building with odor controls that composts
into commercial compost.
"It was a fully-contained environmentally controlled
all the bells and whistles," Fox said today.
When the roof fell inward, it pulled down some of
walls. Those still standing list dangerously.
This morning, a parade of dump trucks was being
filled with the
partially composted sludge for disposal at landfills
as far away as
West Virginia. None of the sludge was to be deposited
The plant, owned by Harleysville-based J.P. Mascaro
& Sons, had
been receiving from 87 to 125 tons of sewage sludge
from Nassau County, N.Y., and surrounding communities.
Concerned about possible runoff of the sludge, DEP
been at the plant daily since the roof collapse.
The sludge was far along in the composting process
75 percent wood chips, according to Fox. However, the
and snow melt raised concerns that leachate
percolating through the
material might flow off the property, Roderick said.
But the material has been controlled, Roderick said,
the agency has received no complaints from residents
living near the
Monday in Berks County,Fox addressed Exeter Township
and residents, seeking permission to bring the
sludge to the company's Pioneer Landing Landfill.
The supervisors granted the approval, despite some
"I don't believe solving the problem of the people
should be imposed on the people of Exeter," said
"There's environmental concerns when it's opened to
like that," Fox said this morning of the cleanup
plans. "There is
odor potential, but there has been none.
"The long and short of it is the material has to be
Mascaro & Sons owner Pat Mascaro told Exeter
Monday that the removal of the sludge would cost an
million because the sludge has to be moved before the
claim can be processed. He estimated the removal would
take 60 days.
Three years into a 15-year, $95 million contract, New
York City has terminated
its deal with J.P. Mascaro & Sons to bring up to
60,000 tons a year of the Big
Apple's sludge to the A&M Composting plant near
The trucks stopped rolling last November, when the
cancellation went into
For almost 10 years, Nassau County's solution to its sewage sludge disposal problem has been simple, if expensive: Truck it somewhere else. Now things may be getting a little more complicated. There's no reason to think a fleet of trucks will stop hauling away the smelly residue of sewage treatment - 80,000 tons of it per year, at an annual cost of about $8 million - from the county's two treatment plants at Cedar Creek and Bay Park, both on the South Shore. There may soon be changes in who hauls that sludge, where it goes, and what happens to it when it gets there. J.P. Mascaro & Sons, a controversial Pennsylvania-based company that in 1993 won a 25-year contract to get rid of Nassau's sludge, is waging a battle on three fronts to keep the lucrative deal. Last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher filed criminal charges against Mascaro, alleging that a transfer station near Allentown that handles Nassau's waste operated for years without the required state environmental permits. In West Virginia, meanwhile, Mascaro is racing to comply with an Oct. 15 ultimatum from Gov. Bob Wise to either finish upgrading or close a giant landfill and composting center that for the last two years has been the final destination for Nassau's sludge. On Long Island, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has begun a court fight with Mascaro in an effort to either slash the cost of the sludge-hauling contract or break the agreement and find a replacement for Mascaro. "We believe Mascaro has breached the contract. Basically, we've been lied to," Suozzi said. Not true, said William Fox, the attorney for the Harleysville, Pa., -based hauler, which also trucks away about 100,000 tons of New York City sludge every year to a composting center near Harrisburg. "All this stuff has been overmagnified," Fox said. "Once all the facts come out, everyone will understand the real situation." Suozzi and Mascaro are battling because, starting in 2000 when a judge ordered a second West Virginia facility closed for environmental violations, Mascaro has been landfilling Nassau's sludge instead of turning it into compost. Once Mascaro started burying the sludge instead of recycling it, Suozzi argues, the company should have charged Nassau only about $70 a ton, instead of more than $100, under the terms of the contract. Mascaro says the contract's "bypass" provision allows "temporary" landfilling at the premium price as long as the company is making progress toward resuming composting, which he said should begin again as soon as the West Virginia upgrades are completed. According to Fox, aides to Suozzi's predecessor Tom Gulotta knew about the switch to landfilling and didn't seek lower fees. The fight is pending in Cenral Islip before U.S. District Judge Arthur D. Spatt, who this summer issued an injunction preventing Nassau from soliciting bids from other sludge-haulers until the case is resolved. In the meantime, Nassau is paying Mascaro $76 a ton, but the county is still arguing that Mascaro owes the county millions in past overcharges. Suffolk, which incinerates some of its sludge, pays Waste Management Inc. about $65 a ton to truck the rest to landfills in Pennsyl- vania and Ohio. Nassau's sludge operations have always been controversial. It took a federal court order in 1989 to force Nassau to stop dumping sludge 106 miles offshore, and county officials signed the 25-year contract with Mascaro in 1993 only after an outcry from South Shore communities killed plans to build two local plants to compress sludge into pellets for use as fertilizer or fuel. Ever since then, Mascaro has faced dogged opposition in West Virginia, where at various times the company has been barred from composting and landfilling at its two huge landfills in the northernmost part of the state. In fact, Nassau's sludge has become a major political issue, and Gov. Wise has been sharply criticized in recent weeks for extending the deadline for Mascaro to build a $4-million indoor composting building that is supposed to curb the reeking odors that have emanated from the Wetzel County site for years. Fox, the Mascaro lawyer, said the company intends to finish the 240,000-square-foot building "on or shortly after" the Oct. 15 deadline, and is "far along in securing alternate sites" for the sludge if the Wetzel County facility is shut down. The company's Pennsylvania legal problems are "paperwork violations," Fox said, pointing out that environmental officials in that state "were fully aware at all times" that the Lehigh County transfer station was handling New York sludge. "I'm not going to say that every piece of paperwork was perfect, but I'm telling you that in my mind there's no question whatso- ever about the propriety of our receiving Nassau County's material." The criminal charges, which are third-degree misdemeanors, carry fines of $25,000 per violation per day. Since there were 28 violations and most of them occurred over more than two years, Mascaro could face millions of dollars in fines if convicted, Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Heather Castellino said. 304-264-7023 Adding to Mascaro's woes, heavy snow demolished the Penn Township A&M facility on Feb. 16, causing an estimated $10 million damage. However, Mascaro's corporate attorney said today the contract termination is being reviewed by the New York comptroller's office. "I'm almost certain it will be reinstated," said William Fox. Fox called the contract cancellation by New York City's Department of Environmental Protection a political move. Frank Schiano, New York DEP deputy counsel, confirmed this morning that the contract termination was under review by the comptroller's office. But he added, "I don't think it's going to be reinstated." New York DEP had sent a four-page certified letter to Mascaro last Oct. 29, serving notice of the contract termination for repeatedly failing to provide promised capacity to handle sludge and turn it into "beneficial re-use." Mascaro got into a bind when one of its West Virginia composting plants that also handled New York sludge was closed by the state because of persistent odor problems. Also, a West Virginia landfill owned by Mascaro, where a new, indoor composting plant was being built under orders from the state, was shut down. The last straw, as outlined in a four-page letter to Mascaro by New York DEP deputy director David Tweedy, occurred when officials learned that Mascaro planned to use the new composting plant partly for Nassau County, N.Y., sludge. "Mascaro was well aware that it could not even meet the city's (contract) and as such should not have been promising city capacity for other customers," Tweedy wrote Mascaro in a certified letter. "DEP has been more than generous with Mascaro. Despite the ability to terminate the contract for almost two years, DEP time and again gave Mascaro latitude with regard to its failure to meet its contractual obligations. At this time, DEP can extend no further generosity," Tweedy said. But Mascaro's Fox says the reasons cited for terminating the contract were "way, way out of hand. "We found interim homes for New York City material. We never missed an ounce of their sludge," he said. He said the contract was canceled just as Mascaro was about to finish a $6 million composting plant in West Virginia. After the New York City deal fell through, the A&M composting operation slipped to about half its permitted intake, which is up to 225 tons a day. Much of the sludge being composted was from Nassau County, N.Y., outside New York City. Contracts call for sludge to be composted and turned into a usable fertilizer or soil supplement. Mark Nolt, who lives near the A&M plant and is an officer of the Lancaster Citizens for Quality Air group that once protested A&M, said the plant had been performing well, and he had heard of no complaints from residents other than an occasional gripe about truck traffic. Asked about the end, at least temporarily, of the incoming New York City sludge, he said, "It's not been a problem so it really doesn't matter to us. "Our whole position has been, as long as they don't make a problem, we're not out to ruin somebody's business." Fox said the new composting facility to be built at A&M would be on the same location but with the addition of new technological improvements. -