The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced June 3 that it has approved the application of Keystone Sanitary Landfill Inc. (KSL) to expand its facility in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. This major modification of its existing permit allows Keystone to expand on 435 acres within the existing permitted area of the landfill and increase its disposal capacity by 145 million cubic yards. The current permit will be up for renewal in 2025.
Prior to its expansion, the landfill was already one of the largest in the country. In Waste Today’s March 2020 Largest Landfill List, the facility was ranked the 16th largest landfill in the U.S., taking in an estimated 1.8 million tons per year.
“This application has generated a large amount of public interest, and we appreciate the involvement of those who feel this decision will impact them. We received more than a thousand public comments,” Mike Bedrin, director of DEP’s Northeast Regional Office, says. “DEP has done a thorough and extensive review of the application and determined that it meets the regulatory requirements for approval.”
The Phase III expansion modification issued by DEP contains specific conditions that are protective of public health, safety and the environment. The permit also contains conditions to ensure that the benefits KSL is to provide to the local community are realized.
Keystone filed its original expansion application in April 2014. During the review process, DEP hosted two public meetings, one in February 2015 and a second in June 2015, to answer questions from the public about the permit application. DEP also hosted a public hearing in July 2016 to take questions from residents about the application. Throughout its review, DEP says it has accepted and considered approximately 1,500 comments regarding the expansion and has prepared a response document addressing these comments.
In April 2015, DEP hosted a public meeting and an open house with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to listen to residents’ concerns about the effects the landfill and its expansion could have on their health. In 2016, the DOH, in conjunction with DEP and ATSDR, began a public health assessment to address concerns regarding the potential health impacts related to the operation of KSL in close proximity to the Pennsylvania boroughs of Dunmore and Throop. The study began in January 2016 and continued through April 2016, during which time air quality sampling by DEP and analysis by DOH and ATSDR was conducted. In January 2018, all three agencies held a public meeting to share the results of the study with residents. In April 2019, DOH issued a final Health Consultation Report in response to the community’s concerns about harmful environmental exposures from the landfill. The report concluded that no long-term public health risk exists for residents living near the landfill. However, the DOH made several recommendations and DEP has developed several special conditions to include in the Phase III expansion approval directly related to recommendations.
In the first part of the review of the application, DEP reviewed the impacts in terms of harms or benefits the expansion could have. In July 2019, DEP approved the Environmental Assessment (EA) and determined that “the benefits of the proposed expansion outweighed the known harms.”
In April 2020, DEP began its technical review of Keystone’s permit application. As part of that review, two deficiency letters were sent, and Keystone responded to both. The information contained in these responses allowed DEP to make its final decision to issue the major modification.
Simultaneous with this permitting action, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced it is working with the general assembly to propose an amendment to the state’s Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act to require the agreement of host municipalities prior to the approval of future major waste facility expansions. Under existing law, municipalities are authorized to negotiate agreements for a host fee to be paid to the municipality.
A copy of Keystone Landfill’s expansion approval, including the comment document, can be found online.