John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Environmental Issues

Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution affirms that, "The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment."

Multiple issues before the Newtown Board of Supervisors have a potential impact on the environment: Fracking, waste water sediment, oil and gas pipelines, etc. Click this button Definition to access the Glossary for definitions of terms and links to related information.

Excerpts from Board of Supervisors Meeting Minutes

Details of important Environment related Newtown Board of Supervisors' decisions and discussions in last few years (organized by issue in reverse chronological order). This is NOT a complete list of items. You can find complete minutes of BOS meetings here.

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Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator

11-May-2016: Mrs. Dix moved to adopt Resolution 2016-R-10, opposing the Elcon Toxic Waste incinerator. Mr. Calabro seconded. Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher asked for clarifications on the changes Mrs. Dix had added to the draft resolution. Mr. M. Gallagher said that he is hesitant to tell other municipalities what to do; he was not supportive of the paragraph which urges Falls to adopt a clean air Ordinance Definition, which Newtown does not have. He also questioned language referencing "real time emissions data," as he was not sure what that meant. Mrs. Dix suggested eliminating the last paragraph rather than postponing adoption of the resolution. Mr. R. Gallagher agreed; the proposed plant will be only 800 yards from the Delaware River and poses a threat to our drinking water. Mrs. Dix moved to amend her motion adopting Resolution 201 6-R-10, minus the last paragraph, Mr. Calabro amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.

[UPDATE, 5/22/2018: "Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator: Déjà vu All Over Again"]

26-Apr-2016Presentation by Clean Air and Water Council: Patricia McCarron was in attendance to ask the Board's support of the Clean Air and Water Council's opposition to the proposed Elcon toxic waste incinerator in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex in Falls Township. The plant will process 210,000 tons of raw wastewater per year which will include high levels of mercury, lead and cadmium among other toxins and pollutants. The plant is to be located within a few hundred yards of a creek which feeds into the Delaware River, a short distance away. Ms. McCarron introduced former New Jersey Governor James Florio. Mr. Florio thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak: against the proposed Elcon Recycling Services facility. He said that he represents Bordentown, New Jersey, in its opposition to the plant. Mr. M. Gallagher said that he has been reluctant to become involved in other municipalities' decision making process, however the CAWC has made a strong argument for Newtown's involvement. He noted that the Board has been provided with a draft based on the Morrissville resolution. He asked Mr. Lare to work with Mr. Ferguson to create a new resolution using Newtown's template for such documents. He read into the record the last paragraph of the draft: "Now therefore, be it resolved, by the Township Committee of the Newtown Township, Bucks County, P A, that it does hereby oppose the construction of this facility and further urges the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency to consider the danger of the proposed Hazardous 'thermal oxidizer' facility at the Keystone Port Complex in Falls Township would have on Newtown Residents and Delaware Valley residents."

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28-Mar-2018: The Township received a sample resolution opposing Fracking Definition detailing facts and figures from scientific studies regarding the adverse impact of fracking. This was formatted into resolution to be considered for adoption. Mr. Mack commented that during the March 19th Work Session, the issue of the massive amount of trucks was mentioned that would be coming through if there was fracking done north of Newtown. It would be detrimental to the road infrastructure and the well-being of the community. Robin Hoy, Wrightstown and a member of Wrightstown Environmental Council, thanked the Board for giving Newtown constituents a voice by signing and forwarding the resolution before the end of March. Mr. Calabro called the vote. The motion passed 4-1, Mr. Davis voting nay.

14-Dec-2016: The Planning Commission reviewed a proposed JMZO Definition amendment for oil and gas drilling and recommended that the Supervisors authorize advertisement. Attorney Terry Clemons, Wrightstown's solicitor, was in attendance to review the history of adopting ordinances as a way to prevent curative amendments and definitive relief, and to explain the importance of addressing the possibility that the current moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin will not be renewed in 2018. If no ordinance exists allowing fracking, a gas company could acquire leases and ask the courts to allow drilling anywhere in the Jointure Definition. By zoning a specific area within the Jointure where fracking would be permitted and placing various performance standards such as setbacks in the ordinance, the Jointure would be creating limited locations for this activity and the threat would be reduced. Mr. Clemons explained that the courts have been very restrictive in what a zoning ordinance can and cannot dictate and the ordinance can only address zoning and cannot dictate the operation of the gas business. A number of County residents spoke about the dangers of fracking and had concerns that the draft ordinance does not contain any protections of air and water quality, does not address 'pipelines and transportation of product or liability of gas companies for damages they will cause. The Commission members share residents' concerns and noted that our Supervisors have passed a resolution in support of the renewal of the moratorium and have been in contact with the Delaware Riverkeepers Network to continue the effort to forbid fracking in the Delaware River Basin. However the Commission is supportive of protecting the Jointure in every way possible in the event that the moratorium is lifted.

8-Jul-2015: Middletown Resident Richmond Shreve said that he wished to speak about the proposed JMZO amendment dealing with gas and oil drilling. He was very concerned that residents were unaware that this ordinance was being considered. A large group of concerned Bucks County residents met yesterday at Newtown Friends Meeting to discuss the proposaL They have created a Web site, and provided copies of the meeting notes as well as a report from New York State's study which eventually led to a ban on fracking. He noted that there are both a Pennsylvania State moratorium in Bucks County and a Delaware Valley River Basin Commission moratorium through January 2018 to allow time for full research and public participation. He discussed the real estate impacts where fracking takes place and urged the Board to not consider an ordinance which would allow fracking in the Jointure.

Resident Steven Bacher, a member of Newtown Township's Environmental Advisory Commission, said that he would urge the Board to take time to completely study the issue of fracking and pointed out that the draft ordinance requires what appears to be a very low bond to cover costs of possible damage. He suggested that a very large bond should be required if the ordinance is adopted. He spoke of the environmental impact on the air and water and urged the Board to adopt a position banning fracking.

[In the following podcast, John Mack interviews Steve Bacher, who discusses environmental issues of concern to Newtown residents . The opinions expressed in the podcast are solely those of John Mack and Steve Bacher and do not reflect the official position of Newtown Township nor do they represent the opinions of any other person or entity.]

Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board is in agreement with the residents and all of the members are opposed to allowing fracking anywhere in the County. The Board supports the current moratorium but is working with the Jointure to look at all issues of concern to its residents. This has been an exploration of ways to restrict and control fracking, as has been done in the past with other unpopular or undesirable uses, employing a strategy of providing a location for every use but selecting locations where land might not be available or where the use would be inappropriate. Mrs. Dix confirmed that she had attended the April meeting of the Joint Zoning Council Definition where this amendment was first discussed. She said it was presented as a pre-emptive method of controlling fracking through zoning, finding a way to allow but heavily restrict the activity. Mr. Calabro said that he is concerned that this is a serious health and safety issue and he does not feel it should be the purview of the State but rather the local government. He would like the Board to stand up to the State and "say no" to fracking. He noted that this is his personal opinion.

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Native Plants

14-Aug-2019: Native Plant Resolution: George Skladany from the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) presented a resolution to support the increased use of native plants in the Township in order to benefit the community as a whole and improve the quality of life. He thanked the BOS for their support of EAC activities including this one and the pop-up garden in conjunction with the Audubon Society. Mr. Mack questioned where residents might obtain a definition and list of acceptable native plants. Mr. Skladany explained there were many lists and definitions as well as differing opinions on this topic and advised having some leeway could be beneficial. Mr. Mack agreed to accept the ambiguity and move forward. Mr. Fisher added that the EAC was discussing updating the SALDO and after some conversation around this subject it was determined the EAC will continue to work on providing a list of acceptable native plants.

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PennEast Pipeline

26-Apr-2017: Mrs. Dix reminded the Board that Mr. Calabro has suggested that Newtown consider a resolution in opposition to the PennEast Pipeline Alternate Route, which would come through portions of Newtown Township. Solebury and Tinicum have already adopted such resolutions and other neighboring municipalities are considering them. Mr. Garton said that he has used the Solebury and Tinicum resolutions as a template to draft a resolution for Newtown, expressing opposition to the alternate route proposal because of its impact on air and water quality and other environmental concerns. Mr. Calabro moved to adopt Resolution 2017- R-ll, opposing the PennEast Pipeline alternate route in Newtown Township. Mrs. Dix seconded. Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro said that although the proposed preferred route does not go through Newtown, it will go through other densely populated areas in Pennsylvania and he would like to include opposition to it also. Motion passed 5-0. Resident Jay Sensibaugh thanked Mr. Calabro for bringing this to the Board's attention. He reminded the Board that the Sun Pipeline has ruptured in Newtown Crossing, causing extensive damage. He would not want to see the Township exposed to this additional burden. Resident Steve Cickay thanked the Board for this resolution. He has concerns that Newtown is included in an alternate route and does not feel secure that because it is not the preferred route that Newtown is safe. He noted that communities along the preferred route in New Jersey are organizing strong opposition to it, which could force Penn East to consider the alternate route, which goes through the playing fields in Woods of Saxony, exposing hundreds of children to danger.

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Silver Lake

25-Oct-2017: The [diffuser] system was installed a few months ago but there hasn't been much removal of the algae. If the algae problem is not better by spring, it was proposed to have chemical treatments for one year to get rid of the algae on top. Black Lagoon has given the Township a proposal at a 25% price cut, $3,800, for chemical treatments in 2018. Mr. Ferguson is placing $3,800 in the 2018 budget in case this treatment needs to be done.

27-Sep-2017: Mrs. Dix commented that the algae problem at Silver Lake hasn't improved. Ms. Fountain stated the company has been contacted to check the filtering system as it is not working as it was presented. By the next Supervisor's meeting, there should be some solutions to present. The equipment is installed and the diffusers appear to be working as they should be but, it isn't removing the algae.

12-Jul-2017: Ms. Fountain presented the proposal for the aeration system for Silver Lake Park from Black Lagoon for installation of a solar aeration system which came in under budget at $12,985.00 with a 3-4 week delivery. There will not be a fountain as before; there are four diffuser heads which cause water movement to -prevent algae formation. Upon receipt of the equipment, it is estimated that the installation will be complete in two months. This is in the current bills list. Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that the monthly electric bill had been significant and with little maintenance there will not be a recurring cost .

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Storm Water Management (MS4)

11-Sep-2019: Pollutant Reduction Plan (PRP) – Friends of Roberts Ridge Park: Resident Elen Snyder, founder of Friends of Roberts Ridge Park stated she formed the group in response to the meadow plan put out by the Township. Ms. Snyder stated the community had concerns with losing shaded areas of the park with the introduction of the meadow plan. In order to regain shade in the park, the community has come together with a plan to add trees back into the park via donations. Over 100 families joined the group and the proposal is to plant 32 trees. Joyce Ely of the Neshaminy Watershed Association has partnered with the group and explained the environmental benefits the native trees will provide. Mr. Fisher asked if donations were still being accepted and Ms. Snyder said they will be accepting them for next year and information can be found at Friends of Roberts Ridge Park on Facebook.

12-Jun-2019Pollutant Reduction Plan (PRP) – Revised Plan: Mr. Lewis reported the Township has received public comment and provided engineer responses on the Pollution Reduction Plan as required by the DEP. In response to comments and the large number in favor of maintaining manicured lawn at Roberts Ridge Park, the space was reconfigured to maintain a larger area of manicured lawn near the playground. Mr. Mack asked Mr. Lewis for an update on the Pollution Reduction Plan specifically regarding Roberts Ridge [Park]. Mr. Lewis said there has been no official revision of the plan yet as the engineers are still reviewing it. CKS is still responding to comments received and then a final decision will be made. Mr. Mack expressed concern about the risk of invasive vegetation when creating meadows and asked if there was a plan to address this issue. Mr. Lewis replied that there are maintenance procedures to follow with meadows and the Township Public Works crews will be maintaining the meadows. Mr. Mack stated he would like to see HOA's and the public become involved in meadow conversions and a discussion ensued on this topic. Mr. Fisher then asked about having a walkway cut through in Roberts Ridge park and Mr. Lewis stated once the meadow is established it can be considered.

[A REVISED Pollution Reduction Plan was discussed. The plan is required to meet the requirements of PA Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reduce sediment from flowing into streams and lakes. The Township Manager (Micah Lewis) and Township Planner (Michele Fountain) specifically spoke about the revised meadow plan for Roberts Ridge Park (see plan below). Also discussed was how homeowner associations may be able to help the Township reduce the pollution of the various watersheds in town. The Board voted 4-1 in favor of submitting the plan - including the numerous public comments and responses from the Township Planner - to the DEP. Kyle Davis was the lone Supervisor voting "nay" - he did not give his reasons for opposing the motion.]

22-May-2019Pollutant Reduction Plan (PRP): Mr. Mack asked Mr. Lewis for an update on the Pollution Reduction Plan specifically regarding Roberts Ridge [Park]. Mr. Lewis said there has been no official revision of the plan yet as the engineers are still reviewing it. CKS is still responding to comments received and then a final decision will be made. Mr. Davis asked if we have mowed the field recently and Mr. Lewis said yes.

8-May-2019Pollutant Reduction Plan (PRP), Public Review Period: Mr. Lewis said that the plan is on the Township’s Web site, outlining measures to reduce sediment. A number of residents have e-mailed comments, which will be reviewed by the Township Engineer before being forwarded to the DEP.

[Several residents and watershed experts spoke out against the establishment of a "meadow" in Roberts Ridge Park as part of the township's Pollution Reduction Plan. Several objections were raised (see video below). The discussion resulted in the Township rethinking the plan for the park and mowing the meadow in the meantime. Other ideas were put forward to comply with PA Department of Environmental Protection regarding reduction of pollution of watersheds.]

24-Apr-2019Pollutant Reduction Plan (PRP), Public Review Period: There was no public comment on the PRP. Mr. Mack asked if the proposed meadow area in Roberts Ridge park is where soccer is currently played. Mr. Lewis said there is a drainage swale there, but no soccer fields. The discussion continued on soccer field locations, and the proper process of creating meadows Mr. Mack also questioned how grassy areas in parks would be converted to meadows and he mentioned that according to his understanding chemicals like Roundup have to be used to first kill the grass. Mr. Mack asked if there were environmentally friendly ways other than using Roundup to do this. Mr. Lewis noted that there are other products approved by the DEP and EPA for use in wetland areas.

[For background, read "Newtown Township's Pollution Reduction Plan"].

10-Apr-2019: Mr. Hyne reviewed the Pollutant Reduction Plan (PRP). The Township has three impaired watersheds, Neshaminy Creek, Lake Luxembourg and Core Creek, The Township must reduce 202,252 lbs. of sedimentation per year for five years and will be implemented by basin and meadow conversions, inlet cleaning and stream restoration projects. Mr. Hyne provided a map to show targeted areas. This plan must be authorized by the Board and then be publicly advertised for public comment for 30 days, After this time frame the plan will go to DEP for approval. Mr. Calabro asked if we have enough township basins that can be converted to meadows to reduce by 10%. Mr. Lewis clarified that the seven township owned basins will be converted to meadows along with under-utilized park areas. The manicured grass areas will be transformed into meadow areas which will also reduce fuel consumption and maintenance costs. Mr. Lewis believes the meadow and basin conversions will start this year.

26-Jun-2018: Mr. Mack followed up with the Board about a proposed for a roundtable discussion with HOA Definition officers to improve communications and discuss MS4 projects. A date will be determined in the future.” [At the March 14, 2018, BOS public meeting, Mr. Mack suggested that HOAs be contacted to attend a roundtable discussion to improve communications and discuss MS4 projects. Mr. Calabro asked that a future date be selected so there could be time to identify the HOA attendees, and to plan and advertise the event.]

14-Mar-2018: Mr. Ferguson noted that he had two meetings with the DEP Definition, Michele Fountain, former Township Engineer Definition, and John Hall, Esquire on the MS4 projects for sediment reduction in Newtown Creek and Core Creek. Newtown Creek was never deemed to be impaired and spending money to reduce 10% of sediment seemed illogical. Mr. Hall was retained to appeal this and it looks as if the appeal will be denied. The Township will soon receive a report indicating proposed projects that would identify a 10% reduction were not included in the application. The two projects identified in the application were on property owned by the Township which would cost $125,000. Mr. Hall will need to advise the Township on where to go next.

To meet the 10% sediment reduction goal, private properties, such as HOAs, would need to be involved. The DEP will not accept the Township’s “reasonable hindrances” of having to obtain cooperation from HOAs, or condemn property, or expand staff to maintain all of the areas on an ongoing basis. The reduction project is a five year plan and the Township is currently on Year 2. Mr. Ferguson asked the DEP for a base starting point in order for the 10% reduction could be identified, but the DEP could not provide assistance. The appeal process goes to an environmental advisory group, which appears to be part of the DEP. Mr. Ferguson didn’t seem confident for a successful appeal.

Mr. Calabro asked if a consortium of neighboring municipalities could work. Even if Newtown partnered, it wasn’t clear if it would drastically reduce the obligation, but it would be helpful to explore this path

11-Oct-2017: There was a previous motion to authorize payment of up to $7,500 to hire John Hall & Associates to move forward with the MS4 Definition discussions regarding alt of the control measures that the Township may need to take. Ms. Fountain stated that after the application was submitted in September, Mr. Hall would have a face-to-face meeting with the DEP Definition and ask why Newtown was having more stringent requirements. The legal expense fund is almost depleted and an additional $5,000 was requested.

9-Aug-2017: The Township has to approve a storm water management program for the Township. We are suggesting your program include two parts. The first part is the Minimum Control Manager (MCM). In this part, you have to have: public education, public participation, illicit discharge and detection, construction storm water runoff control, and operation and maintenance of municipal facilities. The Township has been doing this first part since 2003, and doesn't need to change for the next 5 year permit period from 2018 to 2023. The second part of the program is the pollution reduction plan (PRP). This part is where the Township has to show that it is going to have to reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients going into some of the watersheds within the Township. A motion to move forward with a single application to outline eleven projects with the provision of the disclaimer mentioned that would be included in the report in order to gain compliance with the requirements of the report but understanding that Newtown Township would be progressing legally. Mr. Couch moved to approve the motion. Mr. Ryan seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

28-Jun-2017: In 2003, the Township had to get a permit from the DEP to allow runoff that flowed from Township properties into the waterways. The permit required minimum control measures, i.e. educate the public, get the public involved, do illicit discharge and detection, construction site storm water management, post-construction storm water management, and municipal facilities operation and maintenance. The permit's term was 5 years but was extended to 10 years. A new program and new requirements were released in 2013 and is called Total Maximum Daily Load Waste Load Allocation (TMDL WLA). In the requirement, if a TMDL study was done to a waterway, it is required to reduce the pollutant (usually sediment) to the maximum extent practical. The Township approached the DEP about how the Township didn't need to do anything after the Neshaminy Creek TMDL study, but now the Township needs to reduce sediment by 10% and some of our waterways are not impaired. DEP's answer was that the requirements were made and Newtown needed to complete the 10% sediment reduction. Mr. Ferguson said Newtown may need more legal expertise in this matter to deal with certain circumstances so that project presentations to the DEP can move forward. Mr. Calabro asked if the $850,000 would need to be considered in the budget meetings in a few months. Mr. Ferguson agreed that a l/Sth portion be allocated for the 2018 budget but projects that the Township has access to can begin. Ms. Fountain added that the $850,000 was a very rough estimate and that the Board will have to act on what storm water projects would be in their program by August so they could be included in the application and would be done within the next five year permit period. Mr. Ferguson volunteered to contact other municipalities and ask what sediment reduction projects they did in the last five years to get an idea of projects. There was additional discussion about budgeting amounts for the MS4 requirements. Regarding not knowing if projects need to be completed, and given five years to complete them, MS4 projects might not have to be budgeted for 2018. The projects might be able to be completed sometime during the five year period (ex. all projects completed in year 3), it wouldn't matter to the DEP as long as the Township was in compliance within the 5-year permit period.

4-May-2017Manger’s Report: Mrs. Fountain is going to facilitate a discussion with Mrs. Stover from CKS Engineers regarding the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) requirements determined by a regulation from the EPA through the DEP to create a plan making various improvements to storm systems. It is believed it will be impossible to hit the 10% threshold targets the DEP has set that could result in astronomical costs. As an example, to reduce sediment by- a certain amount of tonnage is based upon' different calculations. In one area we have to reduce 10%, we are at 1% and the cost is over six figures. This is directed to public areas, but now includes HOAs and possibly some private areas as well. The Township may not be able to find enough project areas to meet the 10% which could result in penalties to the Township. The plan needs to be submitted by September 1, 2017. An attorney is facilitating conversations with 9 to 10 municipalities and Mr. Ferguson has requested that Newtown Township be included as well.

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11-Sep-2019: Friends of Roberts Ridge Park: Resident Elen Snyder, founder of Friends of Roberts Ridge Park stated she formed the group in response to the meadow plan put out by the Township. Ms. Snyder stated the community had concerns with losing shaded areas of the park with the introduction of the meadow plan. In order to regain shade in the park, the community has come together with a plan to add trees back into the park via donations. Over 100 families joined the group and the proposal is to plant 32 trees. Joyce Ely of the Neshaminy Watershed Association has partnered with the group and explained the environmental benefits the native trees will provide. Mr. Fisher asked if donations were still being accepted and Ms. Snyder said they will be accepting them for next year and information can be found at Friends of Roberts Ridge Park on Facebook.

13-Aug-2018: Mr. Calabro mentioned that there has been complaints about the trees Brixmor has been cutting down. It is not under the Township’s control to tell them not to do so and wanted to know if there is a way to communicate this to the community. The master plan stated that trees would be removed to make the project uniform and attractive. There is much more landscaping planned than there was before. Mr. Lewis will ask for a rendering to post on the Township website. [Read "Tree Replacement Plan for the Village of Newtown Shopping Center Along Durham Road" and "Trees Removed in Village at Newtown" (see video below).]

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Year of the Bird Proclamation

28-Nov-2018: George Skladany, member of the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC Definition), spoke on behalf of the EAC regarding the Year of the Bird Proclamation, requested by the Pennsylvania Audubon’s Society (see video below). The EAC partners with the Pennsylvania Audubon’s Society, as well as the Bucks County Audubon’s Society, and has a successful working relationship. Newtown Township has been a designated bird town community for many years, regularly sponsoring events to promote conservation. In 2019 the EAC and Pennsylvania Audubon’s Society will be jointly developing and implementing a new program promoting the use of native plants to support bird population. This proclamation states that 2018 is the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, protecting migratory birds for many decades. Mr. Calabro presented Mr. Skladany with the 2018 Year of the Bird Proclamation."]

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