The state Department of
Environmental Protection is
resorting to "dirty tricks" to deny township residents the opportunity to
plead theirs cases against the land application of sewer sludge on Laurel
Locks Farm fields, opponents say.
The Mercury learned Monday that DEP attorneys have filed a motion asking the
Environmental Hearing Board to reject an appeal for a supersedeas, a type of
temporary injunction that would delay the sludge dumping -- without even
conducting a hearing to learn why township officials and residents want the
dumping to be put on hold.
The supersedeas, if granted by the Environmental Hearing Board, would stop
the dumping of Class B sewer sludge -- or "biosolids," as promoters of the
practice call the waste -- on Laurel Locks fields until township residents
and supervisors have their day in the environmental court.
Without the supersedeas, the dumping can happen at any time, despite the
fact the township and some residents are appealing DEP's approval of Laurel
Locks as an appropriate receiving site for the sludge.
The Environmental Hearing Board is the agency that will hear the appeals and
decide whether to overrule the DEP's approval for Laurel Locks, or to stop
Sewer sludge is the byproduct of the waste water treatment process,
containing just about everything that is flushed down a toilet or washed
down a drain.
The numbers of citizens, environmental groups and health-related agencies
including the medical and scientific communities who are questioning the
safety of the practice is growing since the deaths of two commonwealth
residents have been linked to sewer sludge.
The DEP has been steadfast in rejecting the arguments of citizens and
scientists who have questions, with officials only repeating the mantra,
"sludge is safe."
This, despite the fact that documents obtained by The Mercury show the
Environmental Protection Agency -- the federal agency charged with
regulating the land application of sewer sludge -- maintains a Toxic Release
Inventory that lists 600 potentially deadly chemicals found present in the
sludge that will come to North Coventry from the Philadelphia Wastewater
Concern has grown across the country since the National Academies of Science
just weeks ago released a report recommending the alleged safety of sewer
sludge for fertilizer be re-examined, saying the EPA used faulty and
out-of-date science to develop those rules and regulations.
That concern has come to be shared by a majority of North Coventry township
supervisors who decided to appeal the Laurel Locks sludge approval on behalf
of residents who live in homes abutting the fields -- and who say they have
suffered illnesses ranging from sore throats and burning eyes to cancer,
pneumonia and upper respiratory infections since the dumping began a few
According to the DEP's motion, township resident Diane Mazze's request for a
supersedeas should be rejected unless she can provide expert testimony
directly linking her health problems to being exposed to sludge, gases and
Mazze is troubled, to say the least, that the DEP in its motion claims that
her own testimony regarding her state documented chemical sensitivity and
how her health is impacted by the sewer sludge is not enough to merit a
hearing on her request for the supersedeas.
"I received a letter from the DEP saying the sewer sludge is going to be
spread, and I have not even been heard," said Mazze. "This is not justice,
this is not how a democracy is supposed to work. This is a dirty trick."
"(The DEP) has said I have to bring a doctor and a scientist to court to
stop it. I'm a widow, how could I afford this?" she asked Monday.
"Where am I going to find $10,000 or $20,000 for experts witnesses? There is
no justice," she said.
Mazze said win or lose, she will not give up trying to stop the sludge
dumping until the Environmental Hearing Board hears the township's appeals.
"I will have to leave my home if this goes on," she said.
Another North Coventry resident, Tom Kelly, whose home is also close to the
Laurel Locks fields that are to be sludged, was outraged Monday when he
received a letter advising him of the DEP's attempt to squash the
"To dismiss it without even a hearing?This is just wrong," Kelly said.
"And one of the things I find most frustrating about all of this is that the
DEP will be paying a lawyer with our tax dollars to fight us on this
Kelly, whose concern started with odors but whose sludge worries grew to
include the risk to his family's health, has also filed an appeal with the
Environmental Hearing Board.
Neither DEP officials, township officials nor Laurel Locks Farm owner and
Main Line attorney Charles Marshall could be reached for comment Monday
ŠThe Mercury 2002