Harrisburg, Susquehanna Township at odds over proposed compost facility

SUSQUEHANNA TWP., Pa. - Although Harrisburg city officials struck a more apologetic tone Thursday as they discussed a proposed compost facility it wants to operate in the township, community members who live nearby refuse to budge, urging the city to locate the facility elsewhere.

City leaders said Thursday they wanted public feedback so that they can amend a pending application to the Department of Environmental Protection for a permit to operate the facility.

"We wanted to do the right thing for the environment, we wanted to do a really positive project both Susquehanna Township and the city could be proud of," Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said. "We did not anticipate the level of anxiety that we had raised, and we're sorry that had happened."

The city would lease land from the Harrisburg School District on the 1800 block of Stanley Road in the township, which is next to a composting site operated by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services.

Although many of the site's immediate neighbors are utilities or industrial, beyond them are residents nearby who say they want nothing to do with another composting site.

"Bad location because it's in a residential area and there's too many fears," said Stan Lawson, a current township resident who served on the township Board of Commissioners as well as Harrisburg City Council when he lived there. "It's a matter of trust."

A large gripe from residents was whether food waste would be taken in. It would have been in the original application, but city officials will likely remove that from their amended application. Some residents remained unconvinced.

"When someone else comes in, the permit permits all of those types of things, and once you are granted that permit, what's to stop you from doing it later?" Jamie Foulkes, a township resident, asked city officials.

The city maintains it is searching for a composting site beyond city limits because much of the city lies within the floodplain and the DEP would not approve any site that faces the potential of a flood.

Undeterred, city officials say they will take the feedback and incorporate it into an amended application.

"We're going to take that all under consideration, and we're going to work over the next weeks to see if we can come up with a plan that satisfies a lot of those concerns," Papenfuse said.