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Bethlehem Landfill expansion would clear-cut land, expert testifies

Truck, Landfill Hearing 3-22-23.jpg
Will Oliver
The public hearing Wednesday brought out many of those in disagreement with the potential expansion. With a couple of breaks in between, the legal teams held an hours-long dialogue.

LOWER SAUCON TWP, Pa. — A design engineer who worked on original plans to expand Bethlehem Landfill testified that those proposals showed the area would be deforested during the work.

  • Joseph McDowell testified Wednesday at a hearing for Bethlehem Landfill's proposal to expand
  • McDowell said, among other things, that the area targeted for expansion would be clear cut
  • The hearing is scheduled to continue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday

Joseph McDowell, senior design engineer with Martin & Martin Inc., of Chambersburg, Franklin County, testified Wednesday at a conditional use approval hearing at the Lower Saucon Township municipal building.

“I think the intent of the document is to show [how the land] is developed over time, in terms of going in and clear cutting."
Joseph McDowell, senior design engineer with Martin & Martin Inc.

The hearing was the latest in a series through which the landfill owners hope to get conditional use approval to expand.

McDowell previously was a design engineer supporting Richard Bodner, who helped develop the landfill in the 1980s.

During cross-examination by attorney Joe Bubba, who represents the Anderson campus of St. Luke’s Hospital, McDowell was asked about some of the documents that were placed into evidence.

“I think the intent of the document is to show [how the land] is developed over time, in terms of going in and clear cutting,” McDowell said.

Bubba showed McDowell a graph from the documents and asked him to explain what he saw.

“Is it fair to say that what [it] actually demonstrates is that the entire woodlands will be eliminated or destroyed over the course of this?” Bubba asked.

McDowell responded, “Yes.”

During hours of testimony, McDowell later was asked about easements on the land.

Maryanne Starr Garber, legal representative for Bethlehem Landfill, objected, saying the respective township council would have to take action to lift the easements.

That would not be part of the conditional use application, Garber said.

But Bubba asked McDowell, “Am I correct that as part of this conditional use application, the plan is to build areas that are the current subject of a restriction and, at the same time, dedicate proposed conservation areas as shown?"

“Yes, I think that is the general intent,” McDowell said.

Gary Asteak, attorney for many of the affected residents in the case, asked McDowell to define a “conservation easement.”

McDowell reminded everyone he had identified the lands his company proposed "to incorporate into the proposed conservation easement.”

The next hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 24.