Keep Landfill Talks Open CARROLL COUNTY

January 14, 1993

It is bad enough that the Carroll County and Pennsylvania residents living near the Keystone Landfill in Union Township, Pa., have been waiting eight years for the start of the clean-up of this toxic dump, but the Environmental Protection Agency is compounding the injury by announcing the citizens are not welcome at meetings regarding the operation. Apparently, the EPA has decided that because the public has never been involved in Superfund clean-up meetings elsewhere in the nation, it would be unwise to set a precedent.

The EPA is wrong. The agency is supposed to be working to protect humans from pollution and works on behalf of the people who are victims of polluters. This refusal to allow the citizens to attend meetings leaves the impression that EPA is more concerned about the welfare of the polluters than the people it represents.

People Against Contamination of the Environment (PACE) is the citizen organization that has been applying pressure on the government to remedy the site since 1984. The group was founded after tests of well water from homes surrounding the landfill revealed that a witch's brew of chemicals has leeched into the ground water at the site. PACE has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, hired its own consultants and asked legitimate questions about the proposed clean-up plans.

PACE's request is rather simple. The group wants to be notified of all the meetings between the polluters and EPA, and it wants to attend certain meetings as an observer. PACE wants to ensure, rightfully, that its interests are protected.

The companies that dumped their chemicals into the landfill are paying for the clean-up, and it is clear that they are interested in getting the job done as cheaply as possible. The fact that the EPA is willing to accept a less expensive, and less effective, plastic cap rather than a clay one reinforces PACE's fears that EPA is being soft on polluters.

EPA administrators claim they have bent over backward to accommodate PACE. However, the group still feels it is being kept in the dark. The way to mollify PACE and help insure that the clean-up will protect the health of current residents and those moving into the area is to allow it to continue to monitor the process. This would, in fact, set a good precedent.

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