By Richard L. Gaw
Coastal Trash, a Maryland-based trash hauler with as many as 400 contracts in the Oxford area, has been cited by representatives from a competitor, a local landfill, a County recycling group and local citizens for violating municipal ordinances and solid waste plans that call for the proper disposal of trash and recycled materials.
These violations, which include mixing trash and recyclables in the same load -- a violation of Pa. Act 101 -- and not using a waste and recycling landfill in Pennsylvania as required by the Act 90 program -- were first learned when several residents in the Oxford area contacted the competitor.
In video taken by the competitor on Nov. 13, 20 and 27 of Coastal runs in Oxford and shared with the Chester County Press, it clearly showed that trash and recycled materials collected by Coastal employees were being dumped together. The video also showed that rather than taking the waste to the Southeastern Chester County Refuse Authority (SECCRA) in West Grove, employees mixed the trailer full of recycled materials into their trash truck, in the vicinity of Oxford High School.
These infractions highlight a four-month log of phonecalls, meetings, and complaints of more violations that began on Sept. 12, when Scott Mengle, the general manager at SECCRA, first informed Coastal Trash representatives of county ordinances and a solid waste plan for trash haulers who do work in Chester County, which include dropping off waste at the SECCRA facility.
In a conversation with the Maryland Solid Waste Division in Cecil County, Mengle discovered that not only was SECCRA not receiving trash from Coastal's pick-ups in Oxford, by the Maryland facility was not, either. On Nov. 13, Mengle shared information about Coastal with Kevin Maskol from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who told Mengle that the DEP was already aware of what Coastal was doing.
On Nov. 19, Chester County Recycling Coordinator Nancy Fromnick and Bob Watts of the Chester County Solid Waste Authority let SECCRA know that they were aware that Coastal was mixing trash and recylables in the same load.
On Nov. 27, a representative from Coastal informed SECCRA that they would begin bringing their waste to SECCRA, in a pay-as-you-go account arrangement. In subsequent trash hauls, Coastal did not make trash deposits at SECCRA.
On Dec. 11, Dean Rowe and John Speake, the new owners of Coastal, met with Mengle, and let him know that they had established a sub-contract arrangement with Titan Disposal of Oxford to serve the Oxford area, and that Titan had advised Coastal with no notice that they would no longer be working with Coastal.
With no sub-contract arrangement, Coastal used their own truck, and acknowledged that they had mixed trash and recycling throughout the Oxford area. They told SECCRA representatives that the circumstances that led to their mixing trash and recycled material were "extenuating," but assured SECCRA that they had a Pa.-licensed truck to haul trash, and would be bringing the waste to SECCRA that day. Further, they assured SECCRA that they would have two separate trucks, one for waste and one for recycling, and that they will comply with all laws and regulations.
Later that afternoon, Coastal did not arrive at the SECCRA landfill, either with a load of trash or a load of recycling. However, Coastal did, in fact, make a trash delivery to SECCRA on Dec. 12.
On Dec. 11, Fromnick went on a tour of the Oxford area to see for herself.
"My job is to educate and promote recycling in Chester County, and anything that undermines the progress of moving the program forward would attract my attention, and to help the municipalities who are supposed to be enforcing these policies,” she said. "I've been doing this over 20 years, and infractions are usually done by a hauler, or in the event of a new hire doing what is easiest, and in most cases, a call to the employer fixed the problem. If residents take the time and effort to do the proper thing and separate their recyclables from the trash, they get angry if their efforts are for nothing."
The ultimate authority to penalize or enforce these codes fall on the Oxford Borough. Although it has no legal authority, the DEP can make sure that a municipality enforces these ordinances and, if the municipality does not have a recycling program, the DEP can withhold grant funding, and money that the DEP awards a township based on the volume of the recycled materials a township generates.
Deborah Fries, community relations supervisor for DEP's Southeast Regional office, said that the DEP is aware of these issues, and has been working with SECCRA and the Oxford Borough.
"From our standpoint, these are not violations that we would enforce," she said. "Our concern is that Oxford, a mandated recycling community, is able to effect their recycling plan. The enforcement of how the recycling is managed in that community is in the purview of the municipality, not the DEP."
Phone calls by the Chester County Press to representatives of Coastal Trash were not returned.