Bird collisions delay landfill permitting

After receiving new information, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has concluded that a plan to control birds at the proposed Tri-County Landfill in Mercer County is sufficient to mitigate the risk that birds could collide with airplanes arriving or departing from Pennsylvania’s nearby Grove City Airport.

Given that the bird-aircraft collision hazard was the reason Tri-County’s municipal waste landfill permit application was denied in November 2006, DEP regional director Kelly Burch said the supplemental information would lead the department to approve the first phase of the application.

A Tri-County permit was denied in 2006 due to a bird-aircraft collision hazard.

“Tri-County has sufficiently proven to us that they can mitigate this hazard,” said Burch. “With this additional information, Tri-County has demonstrated that the benefits of the project outweigh the known and potential environmental harms. This is the standard that landfill applicants have to meet under Pennsylvania environmental regulations to successfully close out the first phase of the permit review before DEP moves to the second phase, the technical review of the application.”

After the DEP denied Tri-County’s application, the company appealed the decision to the Environmental Hearing Board, where it provided new information that addressed DEP concerns about implementing the mitigation plan.

With the new information, DEP, Tri-County Industries, Inc. and Tri-County Landfill, Inc. have signed a settlement agreement that replaces the department’s previous denial letter. The agreement also modifies the harms-benefits analysis to reflect and incorporate the supplemental information and revised conclusion.

Burch said the DEP will begin the technical review of the Tri-County application within 15 days of the agreement.

Tri-County further agrees that it will close its appeal to the Environmental Hearing Board and will not appeal permit conditions requiring it to implement the bird mitigation measures.

The mitigation measures proposed by Tri-County include:

  • Landfilling waste that might attract birds only at night;
  • Continuously operating heavy equipment within the landfill’s disposal area to prevent birds from landing or feeding;
  • Hiring an employee or consultant to monitor and document the presence of any birds during several daily surveys;
  • And implementing a pyrotechnics system similar to fireworks that would disperse any birds gathering at the site.

Tri-County originally submitted its permit application on Aug. 23, 2004, to operate a municipal waste landfill in Liberty and Pine townships within 6,600 feet of the Grove City Airport.

DEP denied the application during the environmental assessment, or harms-benefits review, after a bird expert retained by DEP could not state conclusively that the bird hazard was fully mitigated by the developer’s plan. The department also expressed concerns about Tri-County’s ability to implement the mitigation plan.

Tri-County previously operated a landfill at the proposed site, but it has not accepted solid waste for disposal at the Mercer County property since 1990 when new, more stringent landfill regulations went into effect. The company continues to operate a waste transfer station at the site.