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  • William Gunderson

Landfill Leachate Doesn't Enter Lehigh River, says Waste Plant Director

In response to concerns raised by a majority of Lower Saucon Township Council at its July 28, 2023, meeting about the Bethlehem Waste Water Treatment Plant ("BWWTP") discharging untreated sewage into the Lehigh River upstream of Steel City residents, Edward J. Boscola, P.E., Director of Water and Sewer Resources, City of Bethlehem, confirmed and allayed Council's worries.

During the Lower Saucon Township council meeting held August 30th, a letter received by Township Manager Mark Hudson was read into the public record by Council President Jason Banonis.

In that letter to Township Manager Hudson, Mr. Boscola acknowledged that during significant rain events, BWWTP diverts flow of some liquid sewage directly into the Lehigh River.

Stock Image - Not actual footage of the BWWTP.

In the August 1, 2023, correspondence to Hudson, Mr. Boscola explained,

"Plant systems (pumps, clarifiers, aeration tanks) are designed to handle so much flow before being inundated and flooding the plant. In order to protect the plant during significant rain events, the CSO is activated which diverts the combined flow directly into the Lehigh River after going through screening to filter out larger debris."

Mr. Boscola offered assurances about the release of raw sewage into the river as "a bit of art and science to it but it works."

The email also states that the BWWTP experiences, on average, 2 of these "CSO events" per year, which results in sewage being mixed with rain run-off and discharged directly into the river.

At recent Lower Saucon Township meetings concerning rezoning of approximately 275 acres adjacent to the Bethlehem Landfill, some residents, as well as downstream non-residents raised questions over the environmental impact of rezoning near the Lehigh River.

But according to the email received, Mr. Boscola's assurances appear to put to rest concerns about landfill leachate (collected rainwater and other moisture mixed with landfill material). Rather that leachate does not enter the river, regardless of rain events. "Leachate from the landfill enters the plant from a completely different flow path down Applebutter Road and directly into the plant. It is impossible for this flow to be diverted to the CSO". Put another way, contaminated rainwater from the nearby landfill is always correctly treated before discharge.

The letter, in it's entirety, can be heard in the Township Council meeting recording, starting at the 4 hour and 35 minute mark.


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