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  • Brad Chambers

Pt. 1 - Bethlehem Landfill: Facts vs. Speculation


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On August 30, the Lower Saucon Township Council met for a 6+ hour meeting to discuss, among other items, proposed rezoning and a municipal host agreement related to the Bethlehem Landfill. The agenda for the meeting can be found on the Township's website and a recording of the meeting can be found on YouTube. Though the meeting lasted almost seven hours, the pertinent portions of the Council's reasoning begins at the 5 hour mark.


As debate and discussion continues around the relationship between the Bethlehem Landfill and Lower Saucon Township, emotions tend to monopolize any rational or logical debate. Over the next week, Saucon Voice will be publishing several articles to share the unbiased facts related to this emotionally charged debate while also attempting to cover the enormous amount of information conveyed during the lengthy meeting.


Of course, no one wants to live next to a landfill, but as Council President Jason Banonis pointed out, landfills are a necessary part of our society until we innovate a new way to handle all the waste we generate. “And particularly after COVID with so much packaging and materials being shipped to individual’s homes.” Garbage must go somewhere – and readers likely put it out to the curb every week for someone else to deal with – we all do.

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For Part 1 we need to first examine several indisputable facts which were laid out by Council President Banonis. While some readers may disagree with or choose to ignore these facts, they are nonetheless factual statements and cannot be overlooked or dismissed. They are supported by public records and publicly available reports. We encourage all readers to do their own research and due diligence.


Firstly, Bethlehem Landfill exists in Lower Saucon Township, and has for many years. “It’s been here for 80 years,” Banonis added. “I’m not aware of a single person who lived in the area of the [Bethlehem] landfill before it existed.”


As a regulated entity, Bethlehem Landfill is highly scrutinized by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) and the Township Host Municipal Inspector. “If you’ve attended any of the Bethlehem Landfill Committee meetings, you would hear that the landfill in inspected, on average, five times per month. And these are not just cursory inspections. These are checklists that DEP goes through and looks at a myriad of different items,” Banonis added.


Along with those inspections the Bethlehem Landfill also has multiple monitoring wells which are monitored by DEP. “[Those wells] are inspected by DEP. They’re evaluated by DEP. And there are folks who have stood up here and suggested that we not consider DEP as being credible, worthy, and competent to monitor what takes place on the landfill,” Banonis stated. He then added, “I couldn’t think of a better entity that’s more qualified to do it because of their experience in these things.”

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Related to those inspections and oversight, Banonis stated that “Bethlehem Landfill has had minimal violations of DEP regulations. And consistent with that, most recently just a few months ago, DEP has approved the Northern Realignment for the Bethlehem Landfill” [read more]. “Do you really think that if this landfill was running in a haphazard way that DEP would endorse the Northern Realignment expansion?” Banonis rhetorically asked the audience.


Finally, Lower Saucon benefits financially by the partnership, as host fees to the Township from Bethlehem Landfill represent a significant portion of the annual budget - around 30%. In dollars that’s $2.6 million paid by the landfill to the Township. Put another way, landfill host fees are the second highest revenue source after earned income taxes.

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Bethlehem Landfill represents a significant source of recurring revenue to the Township. Council President Banonis also pointed out that, “the costs that we have in running this Township are not going to decrease. Everyone here wants freshly paved roads. Everyone here wants a robust police force…but we need to be financially responsible to maintain that going forward.”


To simply cut off a significant source of revenue and shift that back on to the taxpayers “does not create an economically sustainable model for the Township’s future.”


Check back for Part 2 – “Understanding the Financial Implications of the Bethlehem Landfill.”



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