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What is Going On?

September 25, 2008

As a formerly elected and subsequently not re-elected Supervisor on the Board of Supervisors for Shrewsbury Township in Southern York County, Pennsylvania, I first became aware of sludge as an issue when approached by an otherwise content group of citizens living in the western reaches of the Township.

These folks are farmers and people having lived on farms all their lives. They were advised by the Supervisors to bring their issues to the public at a scheduled meeting which they did. Complaints were consistent, though varied, and concerns were as well. The smell was horrendous. Earl Schuckman, a fellow Supervisor measured the smell radius which was as much as two miles. Parishioners approached me after church ushering me to their cars so I could gasp at the odor which had even permeated their upholstery. Eye irritation, congestion, coughing gagging and puking were part of the consistency, not only around the farm where it was spread, but in communities in Virginia, Maryland and New York, where people we met with to work on this problem together were finding these same issues. On a seemingly minor level, people cancelled family outings because of the stench and horse boarders shielded their clients from visiting in fear of losing these clients. Employees of these operations were not coming in and/or going home sick.

When the Board of Supervisors initiated action that we had hoped would bring some pressure to bear, we were advised by the DEP that all collective complaints would be summarized as one complaint and that they were permitted to bring this stuff in and we had no say in it. Our local Reps in the State House after several meetings and much back and forth say they don't have the horsepower to do anything about it. The solid waste authority says we make the stuff too, and should share in its disposal. I could go on and on relating what one might conclude is a State of PA conspiracy to make waste disposal the growth industry in PA.

I met with the farmer spreading this offensive 5000 tons of conglomerated waste from our homes, hospitals, factories and businesses, mortuaries, dumped legally and illegally and virtually uncataloged. This so-called farmer said he would stop if we accepted his development plan even though it did not meet the requirements of Shrewsbury's zoning regulations and if we waived the fees that are acrued to help cover the cost of building parks and recreation for the incoming residents. We wouldn't give into his demands, so here we are.

I end up with more questions than answers, maybe not first nor foremost, but why is it that the land application of solid waste out-trumps Chesapeake Bay restoration initiatives and land management plans? If we wonder why having spent billions taking this crap out of water discharged into the streams that feed the Bay, why we are not making an impact, we are simply fooling ourselves... it gets back into these very same streams when it rains.

Maybe the foremost, but not the first question could be, "Why does the State of Pennsylvania put the local municipal representatives in a position where they cannot effect the protection of our health and safety on matters of Sludge, which is the first and foremost obligation of the Board of Supervisors, and why is the State of Pennsylvania circumventing our supposed legal federal rights suing New Brunswick for standing up big and strong against this outrage?

Joe Newberger, New Freedom, PA