Report: No Long-Term Keystone Landfill Health Risk

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DUNMORE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s no secret that trash from places including New York City is disposed of at Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Lackawanna County. In fact, the site in the Dunmore area brings in so much trash that officials there want to expand.

That request brought in the Department of Environmental Protection. For nearly two years, the DEP studied air quality in neighborhoods near the landfill and now the state’s findings are in.

The report released Tuesday offers mixed results. While it dismisses the biggest health risk concern, opponents of the landfill’s expansion say there’s enough in the findings to continue their fight against those plans.

“This confirms exactly what we suspected and we feared — that this landfill is harming the public health.” Holding a copy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health air quality study report on Keystone Sanitary Landfill, Pat Clark of Friends of Lackawanna raised concerns. “Acute exposure to the chemicals that they traced caused problems in the health of our most sensitive populations.”

The Health Department study found chronic exposure to detected chemicals coming from the landfill is not expected to cause cancer or harmful non-cancer health effects. However, the findings from 87 tested air samples in Dunmore and Throop suggest four chemicals exceed acute levels and could irritate the eyes, nose and throat of children, expectant moms, the elderly or those with respiratory ailments.

More than 500 trucks daily bring roughly 7,000 tons of waste per day combined to the landfill which wants to maintain that rate but expand operations an additional 44 years. “There’s already chemicals that exceed the allowed limits and they keep going. And not only that, that’s just as it operates now. If this thing gets tripled in size, those problems aren’t going to go away. They’re only going to get bigger,” said Mr. Clark. 

In a statement sent to Eyewitness News, Keystone Sanitary Landfill announced it was pleased with the findings, saying “the health study conclusions will eliminate the concerns of the public and public officials” blaming those concerns on “unsubstantiated allegations raised by Friends of Lackawanna”. One item the Pennsylvania Department of Health study finds is that the air sampling already done does not represent any changes to air quality if the landfill expands its operations. 

“It’s concerning. You know, it is concerning,” said Sue Keating. The Dunmore resident sees the hundreds of garbage trucks that dump at the landfill six days a week. While she acknowledges the landfill’s economic benefits, she wonders at what cost. “A lot of the garbage trucks coming in from out of state, you know, we don’t know what’s in there.”

It’s too soon to tell what impact the study will have on the decision DEP will ultimately make whether to grant Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s expansion request. DEP will take public input on the study findings through mid-February. The Pennsylvania Department of Health said there will be an open house to publicly discuss the study findings at a date to be determined.
 

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