DEP: ‘No Landfill Related Odors Detected’ During March 26 Patrol

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Following up on a complaint by residents of the 2100 block of Saucon Avenue, Steel City, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection conducted an odor patrol of the neighborhood and environs March 26, according to an April 2 email from DEP’s Chief of Compliance Monitoring & Enforcement Dean J. Fisher to Lower Saucon Township officials.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection logo

Credit: PA DEP

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection logo

However, the results of the odor patrol by solid waste specialists Jessica Wagoner and Amy Faulch were essentially inconclusive.

“No landfill related odors were detected at the…residence or in Steel City,” Fisher wrote.

However, “during the patrol, a light intermittent landfill gas odor was noted on Riverside (Drive) at the Hill Climb,” he said. “A light persistent landfill gas odor was noted along Applebutter (Road) west of the (IESI Bethlehem) landfill entrance at BRE.”

Fisher added that “no violations were noted as a result of this investigation.”

Many residents of Steel City have become frustrated with a persistent malodor they say has invaded their neighborhood over the last several years.

Residents have spoken out increasingly forcefully about the smell and its impact on their quality of life at township council meetings over the past few months.

Yet the source of the odor remains a mystery, and as DEP continues to investigate it, frustration on the part of residents has been mounting.

Some have complained that their odor reports have gone unanswered, or that there is a long delay between the time when a report is made and the response by DEP officials.

In the case of the March 26 odor patrol, the odor was reported approximately 24 hours earlier on the morning of March 25, according to an email from the Saucon Avenue resident.

Although Steel City’s proximity to the IESI landfill has led some to speculate that it is the source of the odor–which has been variously described as that of gas, rotting garbage or a “sweet” smell–the DEP email from Fisher indicated that the nearby Bethlehem Renewable Energy (BRE) plant on Applebutter Road is also being investigated as a possible source.

“The Department is currently investigating a possible source of odors as related to the nexus of gas use/flow balance between BRE and IESI,” he said. “The Department is also evaluating BRE’s gas management during shut down/start-up activity as a possible source of odors.”

According to Fisher, whose office is in Wilkes-Barre, “the Department’s Air Quality Program and Waste Management Program continue to work closely together on this matter.”

On Tuesday, it was also confirmed by a staff member of state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-131) that he is actively working with state officials to see that the odor concerns in Lower Saucon Township are promptly and thoroughly addressed.

“(Rep. Simmons) is at this very moment in discussion with state officials regarding the landfill and the odors,” wrote District Constituent Outreach Specialist Candice Williams to Lower Saucon Township Manager Jack Cahalan in an email Monday. “As soon as he has clear information, he will send you an update.”

Simmons’ district includes part of Lower Saucon Township, but does not encompass the Applebutter Road area or Steel City. That part of the township is represented in Harrisburg by state Rep. Bob Freeman (D-136).

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