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Department of Health Issues Report on Keystone Sanitary Landfill

DUNMORE — Living near and smelling the Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Lackawanna County may have affected your health, according to a study by the Pennsylv...

DUNMORE -- Living near and smelling the Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Lackawanna County may have affected your health, according to a study by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

While landfill officials say the study debunks a lot of claims, some see it as evidence that the landfill in Dunmore and Throop should not expand.

The results of a study were released Tuesday after the Department of Health collected data in the neighborhoods around the landfill for three months. Some of the findings could be seen as good news, some could be seen as bad news.

And opinions differ over whether it will affect the landfill's proposed expansion.

Some key findings by the Department of Health include that there are no links between the Keystone Sanitary Landfill and cancer.

But, short-term exposure to the air around the landfill could be problematic to children, pregnant women, and the elderly. The Department of Health found contaminants that could cause eye or throat irritation or worsen the symptoms of asthma.

"As far as I'm concerned, really, that is game, set, match. Like, it's over. You cannot, you cannot expand this landfill knowing that we're hurting people," said Michele Dempsey, a member of Friends of Lackawanna, a grassroots group that has taken the landfill to court hoping to stop its proposed expansion.

She says any evidence that landfill pollution could hurt anyone is enough to halt the expansion. That decision will be made by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

"Every step we take, the deeper we get down this rabbit hole, the more painfully obvious it is that this landfill should not expand. And it's not good for our health, our future, it absolutely runs against that common sense tells you should be," Dempsey said.

The health report includes some suggestions for Keystone, including releasing more DEP documents about state oversight of the landfill. It asks landfill officials to respond to odor complaints quicker and make public a log of all odor complaints.

The department also asks Keystone to start an air monitoring program along the landfill's fence.

Keystone's spokesperson Al Magnotta says that last suggestion is something the landfill plans to start.

"We hope that this will put an end to all the unsubstantiated allegations that FOL made relative to the fact that Keystone is a factor in cancer and birth defects," said Magnotta.

Magnotta emphasized the good news, that there's no evidence that exposure to the landfill causes cancer. The reports other findings, he says, haven't been proven.

"Read the report," he said. "There's no facts to back that up. Could, not did, and that's the difference."

What we don't know is how this information will affect the landfill's proposed expansion. Department of Environmental Protection officials tell us it is still under review.

Friends of Lackawanna say this is ammunition next time they are in court fighting the expansion.