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January 2004

Pottstown Landfill Ordered Closed

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty announced December 3, 2003, that DEP has suspended its review of an application for vertical expansion at Waste Management Inc.’s Pottstown Landfill. The Secretary directed the landfill owners to begin community outreach regarding closure plans and appropriate end uses for the 276-acre facility in West Pottsgrove Township, Montgomery County, and Douglass Township, Berks County.

“Waste Management officials understand that we will not approve this expansion request and that as of today, the focus shifts to an inclusive planning process to address the concerns of the communities that surround the landfill,” said Secretary McGinty, who was joined by local and state officials in making the announcement near the landfill entrance in Upper Pottsgrove Township. “The public dialogue now can concentrate on how best to coordinate its closure with local and regional land-use plans.”

In August 2000, Waste Management submitted applications requesting approval to vertically expand the Pottstown Landfill above a currently capped portion of the landfill as well as the active portion of the landfill. In December 2000, DEP returned these applications as incomplete because they did not satisfy setback prohibitions affecting new permitted areas.

The company appealed DEP’s action in January 2001. To resolve the litigation, DEP and Waste Management entered into a settlement agreement, which recognized that the active eastern portion of the landfill would be considered previously permitted.

DEP accepted an application submitted by the company on April 5, 2001, for a vertical expansion over only the active portion of the landfill.

As part of the application submission, the company had to obtain a decision from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as to whether the proposed expansion would affect navigable air space. In December 2002, the FAA decided the proposed expansion would not pose a significant threat. Pottstown Borough and the Alliance for a Clean Environment appealed this decision. The FAA agreed to re-evaluate its decision and in September 2003 announced it had reached the same conclusion.

During the review process, the landfill continued to generate odor complaints, garner penalties and figure prominently in a regional dialogue regarding health issues.

Pottstown Landfill acreage involved in actual past or current waste disposal is about 187 acres; additional acreage is utilized for offices and other ancillary uses. The 74-acre eastern portion, which currently is being filled at a rate much lower than an allowable daily volume of 5,333 tons, is fast approaching its permitted capacity. The landfill began operations in 1947.

“The current life expectancy of this landfill is very short.” Secretary McGinty said.

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