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Southern York County community concerned about potential re-use of landfill

The York County Solid Waste Authority is looking into re-opening the York County Sanitary Landfill, which was shut down by the EPA for contamination.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — The Hopewell Area Recreation Complex in Hopewell Township, York County is a sanctuary for residents like Heather Harris.

“Sometimes we bring chairs and just sit and watch the birds," said Harris.

It’s a stark difference from her childhood, when the Plank Road property, which is owned by the York County Solid Waste Authority (YCSWA), operated as a municipal landfill. 

“It smelled, and there were just these huge mounds of garbage and you could hear the big garbage earthmovers," said Harris.

It’s a horror that Heather and many other residents could potentially be forced to re-live.

The York County Sanitary Landfill was in operation from 1974 to 1997 but was shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to contamination.

The EPA declared the property a superfund site in 1987.

Now, the YCSWA is looking into re-opening, as the fate of its current landfill provider hangs in the air.

For the past 25 years, the Waste Authority has contracted with Modern Landfill, but the contract is set to expire in 2025.

"Even though [the York County Sanitary Landfill] is a closed landfill, it’s already a landfill, so we think it’s an opportunity to make more use of that site for the Authority, as well as the county and Hopewell Township," said David Vollero, Executive Director of the York County Solid Waste Authority.

If it's re-opened, the property would become a dumping ground for ash and other non-combustible waste, something residents want no part of.

"We’re concerned about health, water quality, air quality, air pollution, smell, and we’re concerned about property values," said Ken Smith.

They’re also worried about the impact on wildlife as dozens of species of birds, butterflies, and other animals live and breed on the land.

“We all understand the trash has to go somewhere but again, this site was contaminated so badly, why are you going to do it again?” asked Jim Nagel.

The YCSWA says it has remedied a lot of the groundwater contamination resulting from the site's previous operations.

“We have a groundwater capture system in place, we treat the groundwater, we treated the residents affected in the past, there is no groundwater contamination from the lined areas and anything new would be lined as well," explained Vollero.

In 2006, a large portion of the property was transformed into a recreation complex, where young athletes now bloom.

“The creation of this was a healing event for the community and the Solid Waste Authority did this!” said Smith.

The Waste Authority believes it can maintain recreation while also increasing landfill capacity.

“Our plans would be to build new fields before we would take any fields out of service," said Vollero.

It also understands the community’s concerns and wants to prove it can develop a “win-win” proposition for all.

“We’re not looking to do this if we can’t do it in collaboration with the community," said Vollero. "We’re not trying to force this activity on anybody.”

Vollero says if they don't re-open the Sanitary Landfill, they will most likely have to move waste out of the county.

The York County Solid Waste Authority will hold a public meeting to discuss the potential re-use of the landfill site.

The meeting will take place on August 10 at 7 p.m. inside the Eureka Fire Hall in Stewartstown.

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