UPDATE: Officials vote to start expansion of Lancaster County, PA landfill despite opposition
UPDATE: Despite a state court challenge, Lancaster County, PA’s waste authority voted to start work on a $56 million vertical expansion of the Frey Farm Landfill, as reported in Lancaster Online. Officials voted after a 45-minute executive session and construction could begin as soon as next month. Lancaster County officials awarded a $10.5 million contract to Kinsley Construction of York to start the first phase of the expansion.
Those in favor of the expansion maintain that, if the landfill hits capacity in 2019, Lancaster County will have to start paying to have waste hauled away, raising ratepayer expense. Opponents say that adding vertically to the landfill makes it more vulnerable to landslides and earthquakes, and disrupts the surrounding landscape.
- The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) Board of Directors will vote this week on whether to start construction on a $56 million vertical expansion of the Frey Farm Landfill, despite a pending appeal, as reported by Lancaster Online.
- The project has received permit approval from the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and zoning approval from Manor Township, but an Aug. 24 appeal led by artist Jeff Koons threatens to delay the process. This appeal of the state permit will go through the state's Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) and could take up to two years.
- This appeal raises multiple environmental concerns, such as the site's location along the Susquehanna River, but the LCSWMA says those concerns were already addressed. The authority estimates the appeal will cost up to $1 million, and an additional $10 million per year in added expenses and lost revenue if the expansion isn't completed.
This planned expansion — 50 feet vertically, nine acres laterally — will extend the landfill's lifespan by up to 20 years. Without it, the site is projected to reach capacity in 2019. The LCSWMA often touts its efforts to prolong the site's lifespan, including an ash processing contract signed last year, and a good track record, devoid of DEP violations. Though some residents aren't convinced.
Koons, owner of a farm adjacent to the site, has helped finance opposition to the landfill through two limited partnership companies. He has raised concerns about the stability of planned earthen berms and the aesthetic drawbacks of a vertical expansion, among other issues. The LCSWMA has pushed back on these claims, including in its most recent press release. “It’s unfortunate that Jeffrey Koons considers the view from his property more important than the disposal needs of over 500,000 Lancaster County residents," said CEO Jim Warner in the statement. The authority has vowed to defend its position jointly with the DEP.
The DEP raised questions about earthquake safety earlier this year — a factor that gained additional relevance after a fatal landslide at another Pennsylvania site — but granted approval in July. It will now be up to the EHB's five judges to assess all of these factors during what is expected to be a long process. In the meantime, the LCSWMA board must decide if they're confident enough to begin an expensive expansion that could potentially be stopped months or even years into construction.
Correction: This story has been edited to reflect that the LCSWMA projects it could cost $10 million per year if the landfill isn't expanded.