Quarry’s ‘significant smell’ is identified
A pervasive odor in the northern end of Whitehall Township and Coplay Borough last month was caused by rotting vegetation in the quarry at Coplay Aggregates, township officials reported at the Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners meeting Sept. 10.
Officials said the Whitehall Township Fire Department and the state Department of Environmental Protection responded Aug. 23 to investigate what Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. called a “significant smell.”
Harakal said a representative from Coplay Aggregates said it is believed the problem was caused by an excessive amount of water in the mining-permitted area of the quarry that caused vegetation to rot. The representative said no water had been pumped out of the area for 30 days because of a malfunctioning sump pump.
Harakal said a representative of the DEP agreed the odor was most likely caused by rotting vegetation.
He said Coplay Aggregates also was issued a violation by the Lehigh County Conservation District for sediment runoff on West Coplay Road that was not being contained properly.
Commissioner Joseph Marx said the township and Coplay Whitehall Sewer Authority should bill Coplay Aggregates for their services, since the company “basically gave an admission of guilt.”
There is a history of discord between Coplay Aggregates and the township.
After Coplay Aggregates was given a notice of noncompliance by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in March, when high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were found in the quarry, township officials weren’t told about the contaminated fill until June.
Coplay Aggregates owners later told officials they are willing to address the high levels of PCBs once the EPA makes a final determination.
Harakal also reported he had visited the retaining wall along Race Street near Lehigh Avenue, for which the township is questioning whether it is responsible for maintenance.
Last month, the township received a letter that said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had completed $1.8 million in repairs to the wall as per an agreement with the township, adding the township would now be liable for maintenance costs of the wall.
According to the agreement, PennDOT had to make the repairs to the wall and then the township was to take ownership of the wall as well as future responsibility for its maintenance.
But board members expressed concern that increased traffic in the area, particularly trucks, could cause further damage to the wall.
Harakal said he and Chris Blechschmidt, a structural engineer, went out and examined the wall.
“When they made the repairs, it looks like they trapped some water,” Harakal said.
However, Blechschmidt wasn’t concerned about the water and didn’t think it would compromise the wall.
Harakal reported bleed holes in the wall “seemed to be working” and said Blechschmidt suggested installing perforated pipe to carry the water away.
Township Engineer Frank Clark also reported a study showed the truck traffic in the area of the wall wasn’t bad enough to warrant any action.
“We can’t act until we have a problem with trucks,” Harakal agreed.
In other business, Nick Stibrany was sworn in as the township’s newest police officer, bringing the number of officers on the police force to 46.
Several residents spoke during public comment to complain about loud music from a 4x4 jamboree and car meet at Fullerton Memorial Park last month and asked the township to consider a noise ordinance.
Resident Marty Sheetz said the noise caused things in her house to vibrate and a neighbor measured the noise at 84 decibels, which is as loud as a diesel truck. According to the Dangerous Decibels public health campaign, extended exposure to noises that reach a decibel level of 85 can cause permanent damage.
Resident Marion Brown said she had lived near the Fullerton park for more than 60 years and had never heard anything “so disgusting.”
Sheetz asked for assurance that “this will never happen again.”
Harakal said he talked to representatives from the park who said they will not ask for permits for any group that will have loud music.
“We hear you loud and clear,” Harakal told those present at the meeting.
The board previously expressed concerns that enacting a noise ordinance would be difficult to enforce and be subject to legal challenges, but Harakal told the residents the board will discuss the issue at the township’s legal and legislative committee this week.