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Upper Mount Bethel residents take stand against Ron Angle's sludge

By Tom De Martini, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 09 2013 09:06:23 PM CST
Upper Mount Bethel Township Meeting
UPPER MOUNT BETHEL TWP., Pa. -

Shawnah Flyte stood in front of an overflow crowd Monday night at the Mount Bethel Volunteer Fire Co. and stated "no one person should have this much power over any community."

The assembled crowd rose and cheered.

The person Flyte spoke of is the colorful and controversial former Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle, who intends to spread biosolid fertilizer made from human waste on his farmlands throughout Upper Mount Bethel Township beginning later this month.

The issue has polarized community members who turned out in large numbers Monday night at a special hearing before the Upper Mount Bethel Township Board of Supervisors to voice their displeasure over Angle's sludge-spreading plans.

Many township residents became agitated after receiving letters from Synagro Technologies, Inc., the largest biosolids and organic residuals recycler in the U.S., informing them of the impending spreading of the pellet-sized biosolid fertilizer.

Flyte, one of many emotional residents who spoke out Monday night, said her Sunrise Boulevard home is the closest-affected property to one of Angle's farms.

"My life is completely changed after I got that letter," Flyte said. "I had my dream home. Now that's changed."

Flyte said she and her six children moved to Bangor on Black Friday, but still retain the Sunrise Boulevard home. "I'm going to do everything I can to stop this."

But, it might not be easy.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection allows the use of biosolid fertilizer and famers in Lower Mount Bethel Township are currently using it. DEP laws allow farmers to spread the so-called sludge within 300 feet of a residence and water wells.

Township resident Sue DeGenaro, the founder of the grass roots Upper Mount Bethel Alliance Against Sewage Dumping, introduced an ordinance to supervisors and asked them to adopt it.

DeGenaro said using sludge in the township will diminish property values and have an adverse effect on health and public safety.

"All homeowners should write letters to the DEP and supervisors about land and water issues, have their water tested and their homes appraised," DeGenaro said. "We don't want our township turned into a waste site."

Resident Tim Smith said sludge recently dumped on Angle's property near Smith's home emitted a nasty stench throughout the summer. "You couldn't enjoy the pool. We got headaches and nausea and now the kids go to the school bus holding their noses," he said. "We called the number on the letter and they said 'it's a new smell, get used to it.' Don't let it happen here."

Finally, at the end of the 70-minute meeting, Angle took the microphone to address the crowd. Angle got out a few words about "hysterics" and was quickly shouted down. Angle turned off the microphone, called the crowd "idiots" under his breath, put his coat and hat on and briskly walked out of the meeting.

"Let the sludge begin," Angle said. "You can listen to hysterics or you can listen to the DEP and Penn State."

Upper Mount Bethel supervisor chairwoman Judith Henckel acknowledged that residents are upset, but informed them that at the present time, there's not a lot the board of supervisors can do.

"We may not overturn DEP," she said. "You've given us an ordinance and we're willing to talk and look at a date to see if we can come with something."

Community bills of rights have been successful in many Pennsylvania communities, including Tamaqua, effectively halting environmental threats such as fracking.