Tunkhannock Township supervisors learned that a silica sand plant may be on the horizon once again, and residents were agitated Monday night by the possibilities.
NE Marcellus Aqua Midstream, the same firm that has been constructing a water line from the Susquehanna River to a possible impoundment in Lemon Township, notified the supervisors by certified letter from the engineering firm of Reuther & Bowen of Dunmore on June 11 that it was applying for a stormwater discharge permit and needed a land use letter from the municipality about what kinds of regulations were required locally that the firm should know about.
The project description says that NE Marcellus is looking to design and permit a rail siding from the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad to a staging area “for the unloading of sand material for natural gas use located in the Mark Tunkhannock property.”
It is the same location that D&I Silica of Sheffield had pursued earlier in the decade until it abandoned the plan in 2015 after considerable public outcry.
The Wyoming County Planning Commission had nixed the idea of a sand plant coming to the location in the southwest corner of the intersection of the Rt. 6 bypass and Rt. 92 in the site that is across from where Dunkin Donuts is located on July 16, 2014, on the merit of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the community.
Attorneys for D&I Silica sued the county a month later on grounds that the planning body needed to specify defects in the application, describe the unmet requirements and cite provisions of the statute or ordinance relied upon in making such a denial.
The matter was tied up in the courts for a year before D&I decided to just walk away from the project.
Following the episode, a number of people in Tunkhannock Township felt it was important for the township to have zoning- so if another sand operation might consider the site it would have to take into consideration its proximity to a population center, particularly one so close to a youth soccer field, little league ball fields and a day care center.
Following some contentious meetings over several months, the township decided to abandon the idea of zoning.
On Monday night, resident Jerry Beauchene accused supervisor Randy White of not doing enough to push for zoning, and White said he was taking the prudent action of not bankrupting the township, should a lawsuit intervene.
Beauchene said that White and the other supervisors had the letter for more than three weeks and had done nothing.
White said the letter was a mere part of the process and the people behind it “are not telling us anything.”
Citing some work that had been done by a group of citizen scientists led by a former resident now at Texas A&M, Beauchene said people thought “we had won” when the company stopped its former challenge.
“Here we are again,” he said. “Your job is to protect the health of Tunkhannock Township. We’re going to be overrun with cancer.”
He added, “We had two chances to have zoning and you all ran chicken. Don’t you know that zoning protects people.”
“Stop right there,” White told Beauchene. “We fought it last time and we will again if we have to.”
He said that with zoning, you could break the township down by fighting lawyers over variances. You bring that on and you could have a dead township.”
A woman who identified herself as being a borough resident said the township supervisors had to do something because she and a family member have asthma.
Linda Sherman, also a borough resident, said the matter was bigger than a municipality, and she had been a resident of Wyoming County since 1983.
“With consolidation we now have all the school kids here in Tunkhannock,” in what she termed was a “red zone.”
She added, “Our schools should be up in arms about this, every parent and every PTO, too. How dare they? Please guys, do your best, do your absolute best.”
Sue DiStadio spoke about the zoning hearings and people getting wired up.
“We are now there,” she said. “But the tools we have are limited. You can argue all you want but it serves no purpose to be yelling at each other. That is not the answer.”
Holly Arnold, a member of the Tunkhannock Area School Board and a township resident, who just happened to be at the meeting, said, “This is not the time to point fingers. Screaming at each other does not accomplish anything.”
Sue Barziloski said, “Maybe now is the time for the borough and township to work together.”
White said, “The whole county needs to get involved.”
Noting that county commissioner candidate Ernie King was in the audience, White asked King what he would do if he were commissioner?
“Well, we have to find a way,” King said for industry to operate safely, “but an overriding concern is about public health.”
In other business, the supervisors
*signed off on Resolution 2019-01- providing a PennDOT traffic signal application for the D&C Fuel Station on Rt, 6 East opposite Keystone Caps.
*learned that the township showed a net loss of $1,820 from its Spring Clean up Day in June.
*acknowledged that American Asphalt had backed away from its road paving bids, and they would have to be re-let.
*acknowledged that Tunkhannock Township would be receiving $144,956.41 in Act 13 Impact Fee funds from marcellus shale development. Secretary Judy Gingher said it was $31,850 more than the previous year.
*received notice that Southwestern Energy had received an okay from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for a .999 million gallons of water at Shadow Ranch.
*retroactively okayed a transient sellers permit to Bounce Party for the sale of balloons at the July 3 fireworks.
*heard discussion about the Dunkin Donuts traffic issue that had been discussed by the supervisors in June. Supervisor Hoyt Keiser said he and representatives of the P&G Federal Credit Union met on June 11 with Dunkin owner Eric May, who, according to Keiser, “is willing to change some traffic patterns. Keiser said May followed up with a June 26 phone call, but no timetable for the changes could be nailed down.