UPDATE: March 19, 2019: An odor nuisance lawsuit brought by local residents against the Waste Connections-owned Bethlehem Landfill was recently dismissed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Judge Chad Kenney ruled that the plaintiffs lacked adequate standing to show "special harm" from the landfill beyond effects experienced by the general public. As a result, he dismissed claims of both public and private nuisance, as well as a third count of negligence. On the latter count, Kenney sided with Waste Connections' argument that "it does not have a duty to protect its neighboring landowners from offensive odors or other nuisance conditions" beyond terms set by existing state regulations.
In a statement from general counsel Pat Shea, the company heralded the full dismissal as a victory exemplifying "how landfills are thoroughly governed by state law and permits, not private lawsuits," adding that "Waste Connections works diligently to run best in class landfills with minimal odors, and defends aggressively unwarranted allegations that landfills – which are critical public infrastructure – could somehow be a nuisance."
- Two residents of Freemansburg, Pennsylvania filed a class-action federal lawsuit against Waste Connections owned-IESI Bethlehem Landfill in June over complaints that the odor and pollutants originating from the facility have caused material injury to surrounding property, as well as made use of outdoor areas impossible for local residents, Lehigh Valley Live reported.
- The suit — filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania by plaintiffs Robin and Dexter Baptiste — seeks compensation of $5 million and allows for local residents within a 2.5-mile radius to join.
- According to the suit, there are more than 8,400 households within the stated area. As of filing, around 85 households had contacted the plaintiff's counsel to document odors caused by the landfill.
IESI, owned by Waste Connections, said in July 2015 it increased its monitoring of gas wells and worked to seal in odors after a state inspection found the site lacked the proper cover to prevent odors, and had not implemented the approved gas control and monitoring plan, according to representatives from the company.
However, the landfill racked up eight violations in April during a state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) inspection, with the inspector noting an inadequate cover with visible garbage poking through it. Six of the violations were for "failing to maintain a uniform, intermediate cover to prevent odors, litter and other nuisances, as well as for failing to fully implement a gas control and monitoring plan and to fix deficiencies found during other inspections and other issues," according to The Morning Call. The two remaining violations were for air quality infractions related to leaking gas.
The DEP had previously granted permission for the facility to expand by six acres in September 2017 — a request that had originally been for 53 acres, but was downgraded after township zoning reviews stagnated.
Excessive odors caused by inadequate maintenance at landfills across the nation are a chief concern among neighboring residents who file suits against operators, with other similar cases being filed recently in Illinois and Pennsylvania.