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Strip mining proposal unearths skepticism from Lancaster Twp. neighbors

LANCASTER TWP — Officials representing Seneca Landfill weathered scrutiny from locals when the company requested an expansion of a strip mining operation.

Brian Verwelsh, a project engineer and consultant for the Seneca Landfill, spoke before Lancaster’s supervisors Monday night. The company’s proposal, if approved, would bring current mining operations in Jackson Township beyond the township line into Lancaster.

Lancaster already hosts part of Seneca Landfill’s operation site, which borders Swain Hill Road to the north and Hartmann Road. to the south.

Residents expressed skepticism about the project during the public comment session.

“The smell is worse than it’s ever been,” said Abigail Spura, a resident who grew up on Swain Hill. “When you call and report it, all they do is click on the generator, which I know that that mitigates the smell, but then you have to listen to a generator all day. It’s awful, and then you hear their backup numbers all day, and the blasting. I’ve never received notice of blasting. I would be working at home, and my daughter’s sleeping in her bed.”

During the meeting, Verwelsh told supervisors that the company would give advance notice to anyone living within a half mile of the landfill site about blasting operations.

Seneca Landfill’s expansion would need to undergo further approval from state regulatory agencies, including Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, before any such development could begin, according to township manager Michael Foote. He said this process would take several years.

While residents sometimes questioned the safety and sustainability of a vaster excavation site, they voiced most of their misgivings about the landfill’s impact on property values and quality of life.

“The noise, the site, the smell — it’s a big factor,” said Fred Norris, another resident in Lancaster who lives near the landfill site. “It’s going to change. For me it is.”

David Smith, Seneca Landfill general manager, responded to input from residents and answered questions about environmental impact by the board.

He said that the landfill would ultimately connect with a coal mine site also operated by Seneca to the east.