People against Grove City landfill turn to Commonwealth Court
The work continues for people living in the Grove City area to try and put a stop to a waste landfill from reopening. Earlier this month– the state denied a citizens appeal for the project's permit. From radioactive fracking waste concerns– to safety involving a nearby airport– a group of citizens are now working out what they call a last-ditch effort to put a stop to the landfill.
"Tri-County has had permits denied for the last 26 and a half years," said Jim Highland with the Citizens Environmental Association of the Slippery Rock Area, also known as CEASRA.
People living near the proposed Tri-County Landfill in Grove City say the denied waste appeal from the DEP Environmental Hearing Board is garbage.
CEASRA and community members from Grove City, Pine, and Liberty Township gathered to put their minds together Wednesday on how to put a stop to Tri-County from reopening after it closed back in the 90s due to several violations.
Representatives with the group say they’ve been attempting to limit Tri-County from reopening since it closed in the 90s.
"I think everyone's appalled," explained Paula Renninger of Pine Township. "We can't believe it."
"It is within 4 miles of our community's city drinking water, our schools, and numerous parks within the area," said Jen Michel, President of CEASRA.
That's why CEASRA and Liberty Township officials are now appealing the ruling to the Commonwealth Court. That court has the power to rescind Tri-County Industry's permits.
"In the Commonwealth Court, those judges are elected by the people of PA," explained Jim Highland. "Our lawyer has told us you're going to have a better hearing at the Commonwealth Court."
“This is a last-ditch effort that we can take,” said Jane Cleary with CEASRA. Cleary explained the appeal to the Commonwealth Court will be a “faster and easier process."
“We have been to the [PA] Supreme Court twice with Tri-County Landfill and we have one almost every time," Cleary told the crowd of 100 on Wednesday evening.
Cleary added the DEP ignored pollutant violations as well. CEASRA still has an EHB appeal to keep leachate out of area creeks, especially Black Run.
Aside from health concerns, the main sticking point continues to be the landfill's 1-mile proximity to the Grove City Airport. FAA guidelines restrict airports from being within 10,000 feet of landfills that receive federal grants, like Tri-County. This distance is about 6,000 feet.
"It's also on a direct line from the runway," Highland added. "So pilots send us videos all the time. They take off and land right over where they want to put this garbage mat."
"I have a son who is a pilot," Renninger added. "He's bound by FAA laws and the bird strikes can kill pilots and kill anybody that's on the plane. It is a very big concern."
The group said they are also concerned about endangered species having access to radioactive leachate in Black Run.
“We don’t want to see bad things happen to people in this community,” Highland added. “We have a very strong case. The DEP is supposed to protect us. It’s in their name. We have to force them to do their job just by going through the courts like this.”
Costs to move forward with Commonwealth Court are footed by Liberty Township and CEASRA.
Pine Township officials have not participated in the EHB appeal. They could give money to Liberty Township to assist with further legal battles, but can’t be a part of the Commonwealth Court appeal because of their absence from the EHB appeal. Some complained to 21 News that Pine Township officials have been too absent and silent about the landfill.
CEASRA officials told 21 News Tri-County has already built a sedimentation pond on the Grove City property. This is progress that has residents concerned time could be running out.
"I hope it comes to a resolution," Renninger added. "As long as he's [Tri-County Owner] able to, he will always try to open the landfill. It's property he has and it's a business to run. I understand that. It just shouldn't have been granted in a residential area in the first place."
CEASRA encouraged the public to attend Pine Township's community meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. to ask township officials to better support the landfill opposition efforts.
CEASRA also plans to work with the FAA to stop the landfill. The group is also appealing a water permit that's currently awaiting a hearing.
Click here to view the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board's court records on the landfill.