Harrisburg intends to move ahead with plans to build a composting facility in Susquehanna Township, even though a number of township residents still don’t want it.
With Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse in attendance, seven township residents and one state representative appeared before the township board of commissioners on Thursday night to oppose the composting site. No residents at the meeting voiced support for the facility, but the city’s administration believes that it has won enough support in the community to proceed with the project.
“There’s a handful of people from the neighborhood who oppose it, but it’s not overwhelming,” Papenfuse said. “We’ve worked hard to include incorporate public feedback, and there were far fewer people speaking out against it tonight.”
Papenfuse said that the city would apply for a facility permit with the state Department of Environmental Protection in January. If DEP grants the permit, which Papenfuse believes it will, the city will begin to convert the site to a compost facility.
City officials have campaigned to build a composting facility at 1850 Stanley Rd. since the summer. After they were met with fierce opposition from some residents in Susquehanna Township, they agreed to delay the permit application until they had more public support. Over the following months they hosted informational sessions and visits to comparable sites to teach residents about composting.
Some of the concerns raised on Thursday were over the perceived environmental and health harms of a composting facility. Sue Helm, a representative for Pennsylvania’s 104th legislative district, cited those reasons when she said her constituents in Edgemont did not want the facility in their neighborhood.
Papenfuse reminded the crowd that composting leaves and lawn waste – which essentially involves letting the material decompose into the ground – does not carry any risks to humans, soil or water sources.
Some residents claimed that the facility would create odors or mar neighborhood views. Others worried about noise from the machinery and increased traffic from the Public Works Department trucks that transport the waste.
Papenfuse assured residents that the site would be unobtrusive when it opens. Public Works vehicles will use mostly Harrisburg roads to get to the site, and employees will operate the machinery on a limited, set schedule.
State municipal codes require Harrisburg to maintain its own composting facility for leaves and yard waste. The city decided to build the site on land in Susquehanna Township owned by the Harrisburg School District. The Stanley Road property is owned by the school district and will be leased to the city for a nominal fee. According to Papenfuse, the facility cannot be built in a flood plain, which drastically limits the potential sites in Harrisburg city limits.