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Ron Angle sludge plan under scrutiny

Published On: Dec 30 2013 09:06:22 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 31 2013 06:10:52 AM CST

The fate of sludge-use in Upper Bethel Township remains unknown.

UPPER BETHEL TWP., Pa. -

The fate of sludge use in a Northampton County township remains unknown.

At a meeting Monday night, Upper Mount Bethel Township supervisors agreed to postpone a decision on a proposed ordinance that would ban sludge in the township. Board members agreed to explore other options first.

Board members said they would look into using money from earned income tax (EIT) for open space to subsidize materials, like fertilizer, for the farming industry in the township.

Members said this could prevent sludge use, but research needs to be done to see if it's a feasible option. Members said they need to know how many farms and farm acres are in the township, and how much it would cost. It's also unclear if it would be a legal option.

Sludge has been a focal point of debate in the township, after former Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle proposed to use it on 300 acres of his farmland.

Some nearby residents fear it's detrimental to their health and property.

"After doing my research, I'm horrified. And I will be moving my family from our house if this gets dumped," said John Gorman, who attended Monday night's meeting.

Nearly 100 people attended Monday's meeting in hopes of persuading the board to adopt an ordinance banning the human waste product.

Angle said there is not much anyone can do to stop him from using the biosolid.

"The only person that can stop the sledge is me," Angle said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection calls the biosolid "safe and effective" and the state legislature has approved its use.

The DEP said it's unlikely such a ban would hold up in court.

"Anytime we are faced with an issue like this, state law and state courts have always upheld that state laws, rules, and regulations supersede any local ordinance," said Colleen Connolly, spokesperson with the Pennsylvania DEP.

At Monday's meeting, Angle agreed to hold off on laying down sludge until January 30th.

The board will hear from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) on January 6. A time and location will be announced at a later date.

The CELDF drafted a sludge ordinance in Tamaqua borough in 2006. That ordinance has never been challenged.