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Spilling the Dirt

June 9th, 2014

Daily Item Fails to Check Eister “Facts”

Winston Churchill once disparaged US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles as being the only bull who carried his own china shop around with him. Obviously Mr. Churchill had not come across our very own Sunbury Councilman Jim Eister.

Councilman Jim Eister

Councilman Jim Eister

The Daily Item Saturday headlined Mr. Eister’s claim that it is the City who are dumping dirt on the Celotex site! This audacious but ludicrous statement blatantly flies in the face of all available evidence. According to Eister the source of the material is the new Municipal Authority transfer station being built between the existing establishment and the railroad tracks, at the end of South 4th St. Where his argument falls apart is that there are no excavations taking place on this site – it is being leveled and all the top soil and other dirt can be clearly seen piled up to one side.

Site of Municipal Transfer Station Extension

Site of Municipal Transfer Station Extension

Meanwhile the dumping continues at Celotex, and the pace of activity would appear to be accelerating. An estimated 1000 additional tons or 40 dump truck loads has been deposited there in the past week alone – now they are dumping dirt on top of dirt, and the piles stretch across the full width of the enlarged dumping area.

Celotex Dumping - 6/7/2014

Celotex Dumping – 6/7/2014

Another View of the Celotex Dirt

Another View of the Celotex Dirt

Perhaps Mr. Eister would care to tell us why he appears so desperate to conceal this activity from our citizens, glossing over the fact that he has no idea what is being dumped, its origins, or its levels of toxicity and/or radioactivity. What exactly is in it for him?

One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Questions

At the City meeting of 9/23/2013, Eister was discussing his plans for phase 3 of the Riverfront Project – to destroy the historical WPA wall and replace it with Redi-rock. In reply to Joe Bartello he stated that the cost of the project would not be $400,000, as the length of the projected wall had been reduced, making the estimate closer to $275,000.

However, at the meeting of 2/24/2014 he moved to accept a bid from HRI for $394,000 for this self-same project, at the reduced length of 420 feet. Questions have been asked, but never answered. Why did the City apparently spend $120,000 more than their estimated cost? What could have made them so eager to accept this inflated bid? Did anyone personally profit from the deal? Certainly the citizens of Sunbury, as usual, lost out. Far from being city custodians, the Persing Administration are piling up the debt and squandering money every which way they can.

Eister also told the same city meeting that it would not cost the estimated $30,500 to repair the WPA wall. This was only for “engineering work”. When subsequently confronted with a copy of the actual grant documentation, Eister withdrew his statement and apologized for misleading the City. Fact is that this historic wall could have been preserved for future generations at no cost to the city. Why was this option so flippantly rejected?

When asked about the timing of the replacement work, Eister said it was due to commence in the fall. However, the contract documents clearly show a completion date no later than 6/6/2014. Deadline for submission of bids had been 12 days previous, on 2/12/2014. Why did Eister feel it necessary to mislead the meeting one more time?

When asked about the possible sale of top soil from the site, Eister said that the soil had only been moved temporarily and would be returned later. This despite the fact that they had no place to put it – the specification for the new Redi-rock wall called for it to be back-filled with stone. The picture below shows the final destination, near Paxinos, of several dump truck loads of the soil. Nobody appears to have told this property owner that he was not going to be allowed to keep his soil.

The recipient of several dump; truck loads of topsoil is busily levelling his new yard.

Final Resting Place for Topsoil from Wall Project

When asked about the stone from the WPA wall, the value of which can be conservatively estimated at $40,000, Eister said that it was to remain on site. However the stone, or what is left of it, is now piled up at the rear of the City Barn, and word around town is that it is available for sale – cash deals only. What an ignoble and squalid end to something which had helped protect our city for 80 years.

Pile of ex WPA Wall Stone at City Barn

Pile of ex WPA Wall Stone at City Barn

How the City sees the pile of stone

How the City Sees It

Celotex – No Mention in Bolus Indictments

The former Celotex site was not mentioned in the multiple indictments served by the Attorney General on Minuteman and owner Brian Bolus last week. However, Bolus was not dumping waste here, merely spilling it on the site, on the surrounding streets and into the Susquehanna River, so we guess that must make it ok!

Contrary to the statement by City Clerk Terry Specht, Moran does need permits for dumping dirt on the site. We have a copy of a DEP Earth Disturbance Inspection Report dated 3/25/2013 which authorizes the use of CLEAN FILL to cover an area on the site not exceeding 0.97 of an acre. As such, storm water management comes under what is termed small area hydrology – a less rigorous requirement. Larger areas have to meet much more exacting criteria.

A Google Earth image clearly shows the extent of dumping on the site. Even before the latest clandestine additions, and using the tools which come with the program, the area of dumping was measured at 210 yards by 70 yards – a total of 14,700 square yards or 3.04 acres.

Celotex from Google Earth - Sepia Tint shows Dump Area.

Celotex Site – Sepia Tint shows Dump Area. Copyright Google Earth

Northumberland County Conservation District has stated that, “Moran has one acre to contain the soil. When the acre has been filled, the company has to stop dumping immediately, or get another erosion and sediment control plan.”

It is obvious from the evidence above that the plan submitted on 6/2/2014 was based on a false premise. In the light of this information, can we assume that the company will cease dumping with immediate effect? If not, can we expect action by the City against the site operators to actually enforce the law? That would certainly be a novel experience for both parties.

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