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Development of Bethlehem Landfill was stringently monitored by DEP, civil engineer says

Richard Bodner Bethlehem Landfill.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
Richard M. Bodner, a civil engineer who has been associated with the Bethlehem Landfill since the late 1980s, testified at a hearing on the proposed landfill expansion on Friday.

LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. — A long-time civil engineer who designed and engineered the current Bethlehem Landfill on Friday testified on behalf of its proposal to expand.

  • A hearing on Bethlehem Landfill's proposed expansion in Lower Saucon Township was held Friday
  • Richard M. Bodner, who designed and engineered the current Bethlehem Landfill, testified as to the stringent safety measures at the landfill
  • The next hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 22 in the township municipal building on Old Philadelphia Pike

Richard M. Bodner, at a conditional use approval hearing at the Lower Saucon Township municipal building Friday, detailed the stringent process a landfill must undergo when seeking approval of a state Department of Environmental Protection municipal waste major permit modification.
The landfill owners hope to get conditional use approval to expand.

The next hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 22 in the township municipal building.

Bodner founded Martin & Martin Inc., of Chambersburg, Franklin County, in 1973. The firm provides engineering and planning consultation services relative to solid waste management, land development planning and design, and environmental services.

"I've been involved in all elements of such projects from cradle to grave."
Richard M. Bodner, civil engineer and long-time associate at Bethlehem Landfill

Bodner first became associated with the Bethlehem Landfill in the late 1980s and has maintained that relationship through all phases of landfill expansions. He has designed countless landfills and been involved in all elements of such projects from, as he noted, “cradle to grave.”

Second engineer to testify

Bodner also explained the primary design elements of a landfill, including the layered liner system designed to prevent any generated liquid from exiting into the surrounding land and surface and groundwater.

Residents who attended Friday's hearing are among many who oppose the landfill expansion planned for 117.4 of 275.7 acres at 2335 Applebutter Road in Lower Saucon Township.

Bethlehem Landfill map.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
A map showing the Bethlehem Landfill and the parcel on which it is seeking DEP approval to expand.

Objectionable odors, well water contamination, environmental and scenic impacts, and overall health concerns from such an expansion are among the chief concerns of the residents who live near and around the landfill.

Friday marked the second consecutive day an engineer with many years of experience in landfills testified for the Bethlehem Landfill project.

On Thursday, Joshua G. Roth explained the process of how an underground mechanical system captures gasses created by decomposing trash and prevents them from impacting the environment.

Questioning of Bodner by Maryanne Garber, counsel for the landfill’s parent company, Waste Connections, of The Woodlands, Texas, was intended to convey the carefully monitored steps — from ground testing, to permits, to design, to completion, to monitoring — to ensure the landfill maintains an environmentally safe function.

Unaware of any problems

Bodner detailed procedural requirements for a landfill and/or expansion.

The process consists of identifying the property, ascertaining local government zoning and other ordinance constraints for use on the property, and constraints from the Department of Environmental Protection — all to determine whether the project has a reasonable chance of moving forward.

Bodner said his company then assembles a team of experts in fields including but not limited to geology, hydrogeology, radiation, wetlands, surveying, air movement and traffic as the design of the landfill begins.

Gary Asteak, counsel for many residents who oppose the landfill expansion, to cast Bodner as less of an expert on the landfill than did Garber.

Under cross examination, Bodner testified he was unaware of any problems at the landfill over the past four years. Bodner also said he was unaware of inspection deficiencies at the landfill in 2018.

Bodner testified he also was unaware of the discovery in 1999 of a total of 200 rusted, 55-gallon barrels and 5-gallon pails that contained paint pigment, oil and wax — items forbidden from being legally deposited in the landfill.

Garber objected to Asteak's characterization of Bodner as a landfill historian. Bodner explained his role as primary design engineer of the Bethlehem Landfill ended about five years ago, when he was succeeded by current engineer Joe McDowell, who now heads the expansion project.