Officials to review quarry findings
Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners will have its solicitor and engineer review a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) air-quality inspection report regarding the contents of fill being dumped at the former Coplay Cement Company quarry in North Coplay.
Residents of Fox Hollow, a community near the quarry, are outraged at the dust and sticky debris in their neighborhood, which they say stems from the dumping of clean fill by UGI.
In 2008, conditional use permission was granted by the township board of commissioners for UGI and MCK/Michael Hobel, including authorized subcontractors, to dump clean fill from the opening of streets for repairs and replacements of gas lines throughout the Lehigh Valley into the quarry, located east of North Coplay Road and west of the former Conrail/Norfolk Southern Rail Line along the Lehigh River.
Residents have sought for the quarry to be shut down, citing violations to the agreement between UGI and the township, such as noncompliance with hours of operation, gate closures and transfer station regulations.
Fox Hollow resident Chris Feidler and neighbors have insisted immediate action be taken by the township, such as citing Hobel for alleged violations regarding the dumping of asphalt material, which they allege has caused the sticky dust that clings to their homes, vehicles and patios and potential health issues to families there.
DEP officials conducted an inspection of the neighborhood. The results of the inspection were sent to Feidler and neighbors. The township did not receive a copy of the report.
Feidler shared the air-quality inspection documents with township officials during the Nov. 14 board of commissioners meeting and left the paperwork with township Engineer Frank Clark for further review.
Feidler told The Press on Tuesday he has received results of a second DEP inspection report - data obtained from cylinders placed in the Fox Hollow neighborhood. He said he has not been given formal documentation, but rather a verbal report confirming the substance is cement dust at a high concentration.
Commissioners President Phillips Armstrong and Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr. told the residents the township was not privy to the written DEP inspection documents. Hozza said he was given only a verbal statement regarding the inspection, adding he also was told the substance was cement dust. Hozza and township officials said the DEP has not been forthcoming with information to the township.
Solicitor Charles Fonzone said he will be reviewing Clark’s findings.
“We had no suspicion,” Clark said regarding the conditional use agreement with UGI and potential violations.
He spoke of not having the right to go on the tract, where a large piece of machinery was set for a long period. Residents have said that equipment was used to crush the asphalt.
That equipment, Feidler said, has since been removed from the quarry site. He added on Tuesday that the dust remains in the neighborhood, but the sticky substance is no longer present since that piece of machinery is gone.
“We got a win as neighborhood,” Feidler said. “We don’t have the sticky substance anymore.”
Commissioners Joseph J. Marx Jr. and Linda Snyder were prepared at the Nov. 14 meeting to make a motion and have the board vote on pursuing action against Hobel but decided to wait for the outcome of the findings by the township engineer and solicitor.
“Why should [Fox Hollow residents] have to put up with all of this?” said Snyder, herself a Cementon resident.
“We’ll do the right thing,” Marx told the people.
Both Snyder and Marx received applause from the Fox Hollow contingent.
Lee Rackus, director of zoning, planning and development, cautioned the township because of issues with the DEP regarding an appeal in a separate quarry matter.
“We were reprimanded,” Rackus told the audience. “We’re on probation, more or less.”
She said the law protects the property owner.
Rackus added that DEP, not the municipality, is responsible for all environmental issues.
Commissioner Tom Slonaker said, “We’re restricted what we can do.”