Tunkhannock Township residents still fighting frack sand facility

First Posted: 7/8/2014

An agreement among three municipalities and the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad was tabled Monday night after township supervisors said they had been given new information they must evaluate.

While municipal leaders say they are scrambling to thwart a proposed fracking sand transfer station in the works for a busy part of town, the agreement was one more piece of the puzzle needed for D&I Silica, a company that supplies sand for hydraulic fracturing operations, to add a side rail along the track that primarily services the Procter & Gamble factory in Mehoopany.

“The developer D&I has jumped through every hoop that we’ve thrown out there so far,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Vito Barziloski said during the meeting.

The agreement was to be submitted to the state Public Utility Commission signed by the railroad, Tunkhannock Township, Eaton Township and Tunkhannock Borough regarding a signal switch that drops a safety gate across state Route 29 at the U.S. Route 6 intersection.

Where the signal switch is now located, a train entering the proposed side rail will trip it, causing the gate to drop blocking traffic while the train unloads at the station. This could cause potentially large traffic jams on both north- and south-bound lanes.

The agreement would allow the rail company to relocate the switch beyond the side rail but before the highway intersection.

The new information arrived in the hands of two women looking to shut down the project completely.

Betty Ann Weaver Shaver and Audrey Gozdiskowski have been working against the company for fear that, if constructed, the station would bring environmental, health and traffic hazards straight to the middle of town. The women submitted a list of requests for the supervisors to consider in efforts to stop it.

The requests included:

• Finding out if they can effectively piggy-back on Eaton Township’s zoning rules, which could prevent the site from going up.

• Request the state Department of Environmental Protection to conduct baseline air, water and soil quality tests.

• Request D&I to perform similar baseline tests.

• Request efforts to mitigate or identify traffic congestion that could arise due to the excessive truck traffic.

Both township and county officials have said their hands are tied because the township has no zoning ordinance, and there is no county-wide zoning, a point questioned by Barzloski.

“A township this size should have zoning,” Barziloski said.

In April, PennDOT granted D&I a highway occupancy permit to transfer 750 trucks in and out of the facility per day, a number residents and officials alike say will surely choke the already busy highway. The driveway would be about 100 feet from the Route 92, U.S. 6 intersection directly across from the gas station/Dunkin’ Donuts driveway.

D&I officials have not given municipal leaders an exact number, but it is expected, initially, the site will require far fewer trucks.

Additionally, the site is about a quarter mile from the Lee Baumgartner Sports Complex and the Hickory Dickory Dock Day Care both along route 92.

Silica is a carcinogen and can trigger the respiratory disease silicosis.

Don Davis, who lives on the western side of town, has lived his entire life with a genetic respiratory disease called Alpha-1. He addressed the board, saying every asthma attack a child has does irreparable harm to the lungs.

A sand facility north of the baseball fields could mean some players would have to give up baseball for fear of an asthma attack, Davis said.

All that remains is for the Wyoming County Planning Commission to consider granting a land development permit.

The planning commission meets every third Wednesday. At press time, Wyoming County Planning Commission Director Nicole Wootten said the board is to consider the D&I application during this Wednesday’s meeting.

Meeting’s start at 7 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center along Route 6 in Tunkhannock Township.

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