The City of Aliquippa has been lying to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection about where they’ve been dumping their organic waste, and after being cited by the agency, stole a compost pile from a community garden rather than cleaning up the real problems.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cited Aliquippa for failing to dump leaves, clippings, and brush into an approved mulching operation. Aliquippa had reported to the DEP that they were dumping their organic waste into a licensed facility operated by Beaver County, when they were in fact illegally dumping it in various locations throughout the city.
“As a county we serve to assist our municipalities, so our role here is to act as a liaison between our various communities and the DEP,” said Holly Nicely, Director of the Beaver County Department of Waste Management. “We have a compost site that the county maintains which is DEP approved, so municipalities can recycle their organic waste here without having to maintain a site of their own.”
Nicely said maintaining a DEP approved site helps to keep communities safe and clean, but can be a complex and expensive endeavor. “So we take a lot of pride in providing these services to municipalities in Beaver County. We are being a helping hand to the communities because the permit requirements are huge, we have to show compliance with all of these regulations on a daily basis. We are responsible to the DEP when they come and inspect us.”
Aliquippa’s misrepresentations to the DEP were revealed as part of a routine reporting process conducted by county government. “Essentially in my role as the county coordinator I have to go into the state system and report for each municipality on an annual basis. I’m required to provide the information that the municipalities provide to me. The DEP Office in Harrisburg then reviews the information and lets us know if there are any red flags.”
Nicely said that Aliquippa failed to provide the county with any information about where they were taking all of their leaves and clippings. That’s when the DEP called the City of Aliquippa.
“The DEP called Aliquippa and then called the county back and said City Manager Sam Gill was reporting all of the materials were going to the Beaver County compost site,” said Nicely.
The county told the DEP that they have no records of the city using their facilities. The DEP issued the City of Aliquippa a citation as a result.
In order to become compliant, and to become eligible for grant money from the DEP, Aliquippa was required to clean up their illegal dump sites throughout the City and take the materials to the county recycling facility or other similarly licensed location.
But instead of cleaning up the town, sources tell the Beaver Countian that officials continued their acts of deception, telling a local community garden they were the reason why the city was cited. It had been years since the city had contributed any materials to the garden’s small mulching project, most of which had already composted into soil. Officials falsely told volunteers who help to run the garden that their compost pile attracted the attention of the DEP because it was located too close to a stream. City workers then came with heavy equipment to remove the mulch, which sources say was delivered to the county recycling facility so the town could then report itself in compliance.
Several sites throughout Aliquippa where city workers were actually dumping leaves over the past two years remained untouched.
A volunteer with the community garden in Aliquippa tells the Beaver Countian that the site was heavily damaged by the city when they came in to remove their mulch piles, with several planting beds being torn up and beehives knocked over.