Saturday, January 30, 2010


Rummaging through the "Local News" section of my hometown paper, I came upon the story posted below. Remembering my Pennsylvania roots, I have seen fit to periodically interrupt it and offer commentary:

The Chris Bros. Sanitary Landfill in Williams Township has appealed a $186,750 penalty levied in December by the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection for air quality, odor and gas management violations during the past four years.

So far, so good.

In a news release Thursday, Chris alleges that the DEP never traced detected odors to the landfill.

That's to be expected. Any company that has to endure a six-figure fine and a concurrent blow to its reputation is bound to protest.

The company suggests the smells could have come from numerous other area sources of emissions, including Interstate 78, trash trucks and trash containers.

In normal times, I would take it for granted that no one would be so stupid as to buy into that argument. Hundreds of communities are lined along Interstate 78, and none of them report odor problems related to their proximity to that highway; likewise, thousands of communities have trash trucks and trash containers without needing to worry about such consequences. It's elementary logic - if X is different from the thousands of other Ys, identify the unique variable in X's composition in order to ascertain the cause of the difference. Since we know that X smells while the Ys don't, and both X and the Ys share a proximity to Interstate 78 and the presence of trash trucks and trash containers, but only X has a garbage dump located within municipal limits, then it stands to reason...

Chrin also alleges the DEP was put under "extreme pressure" by a "small, politically active" group of Williams residents to document problems. In the appeal, Chrin claims the citizens group "began a smear campaign" to destroy the company's reputation and relationships within the community, the township and the DEP.


"The public demands and deserves the truth and that is why we are appealing," said landfill Vice President Greg Chrin.


"The only conclusion that can then be drawn is that the Chris landfill has acted properly when it comes to environmental compliance, continues to operate by the book, and has been unjustly treated."


Then again, perhaps I am naive for being that surprised that Chrin would actually make these assertions. In an era which placed its highest premium on logic and common sense, it would be hard to imagine that Chrin would ever dare to use the defense I just read. What possible motive would a grassroots citizens' league have for attempting to destroy a private corporation that has not harmed them in some way (particularly one that, by being located so close to the municipality, probably provides them with jobs and other economic benefits)? Even if such a group of inexplicably hostile Williams denizens DID spontaneously arise, in what universe would the middle class residents of a tiny Pennsylvania township have more political clout than a multi-million dollar company? In short, how do they expect anyone with a half-brain to find their version of reality - that a group of Williams Township citizens with a rabid hatred of Chrin Bros. Sanitary Landfill blamed that company for creating an odious stench in their fair community and manipulated the state government into believing similarly, even though everyone secretly knew that it was actually caused by a couple of trash cans and a nearby stretch of road - more plausible than the opposing view, which is simply that Chrin Bros. created a stench (a common problem when your business specializes in garbage), decided it was more profitable to simply leave it there, encountered citizens who were understandably angry about having to deal with the odor, and are now themselves furious because they're going to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and clean-up fees?

Normally I would assume that no one would believe the Chrin Bros. story. Then again, there are millions of people who trust insurance companies over progressives who want to make health care reform accessible to everyone, so I can't take that for granted at all. The news article itself doesn't elaborate on public response to this fiasco.

The appeal will be heard by the Environmental Hearing Board in Harrisburg. Mark Carmon, regional spokesman for the DEP, did not return a message seeking comment. Kathy Lilley, spokeswoman for the group of residents opposed to the landfill, said Chrin has no one to blame but itself.

"It is well-known by people that live and work and travel through the area that that landfill routinely smells and it has for years," Lilley said. "What the citizens did was point out problems to the DEP and hold those agencies accountable for enforcing their own regulations."

That rabble-rousing Commie!

As a result of the residents' complaints, as well as an investigation by the DEP, the agency in December issued the penalty and required changes at the landfill. The DEP said Chrin on 19 occasions during the past two years failed to control odors and sufficiently cover the landfill.

The agency also said the company on "numerous occasions" between 2005 and 2008 failed to collect at least 70 percent of landfill gases and re-monitor locations where emissions exceeded state limits.

Seems pretty cut-and-dried to me.

But David Brooman, attorney for Chrin, said in the release that there was no basis for the violations or the fine imposed, calling the DEP's actions "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise contrary to law."

If it is so difficult for local companies to accept even the most obvious accountability, is anyone surprised that their Brobdingnagian counterparts are so unconscionably irresponsible?

No comments: