In The Loop

Welcome to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority's Blog

Entries Tagged as In The News

LCSWMA Commissions Steam to Perdue AgriBusiness for Soybean Processing Facility

August 08, 2017 ·

Today, LCSWMA began commissioning steam to Perdue AgriBusiness in preparation for the targeted September 2017 start-up of their Soybean Processing Facility adjacent to the Lancaster Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Facility in Conoy Township. LCSWMA sold the contiguous 57-acre tract of land to Perdue in 2016 for $2.48 million in 2016.

The Perdue Soybean Processing Facility includes two main components:

(1) A grain elevator to receive, dry, store, and ship soybeans grown and harvested throughout the region.

(2) The processing plant to process roughly 20 million bushels of soybeans per year and produce soybean meal, soybean hulls, and soybean oil.

LCSWMA will provide around 15% of the steam from the Lancaster WTE Facility (up to 57,000 pounds/hour), which will reduce the environmental footprint of the Perdue Soybean Processing Facility and lower its emissions by avoiding the need to use fossil fuels. Using steam from the Lancaster WTE Facility, instead of creating steam from natural gas or fossil fuels, avoids 20,000-30,000 metric tons of CO2 annually for this project. LCSWMA will also provide process water (up to 130,000 gallons/day or 47 million gallons/annually) from the Lancaster WTE Facility, eliminating the need to use water from the Susquehanna River for the Perdue Soybean Processing Facility. The process water is returned to the Lancaster WTE Facility, where it is treated and recycled yet again in a closed-loop, zero discharge system.

In May 2016, Perdue received its air permit from PA-DEP for the Soybean Processing Facility and began groundwork and construction on the project. LCSWMA spent the latter half of the year focused on engineering design for the necessary steam modifications to the Lancaster WTE Facility, in order to integrate the two facilities. The partners anticipate full commencement of operations at the site to occur in fall 2017.

Tags: In The News · Waste-to-Energy

LCSWMA Receives DEP Approval to Vertically Expand the Frey Farm Landfill

July 28, 2017 ·

The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) announced it received final approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on its application for a major permit modification to vertically expand the Frey Farm Landfill.

While LCSWMA’s Integrated System effectively diverts 96-98% of Lancaster County’s municipal solid waste from the landfill each year, the reality is that not all waste can be reused, recycled or combusted for energy and must be disposed in an environmentally-safe manner. Thus, the Frey Farm Landfill, located in Conestoga, serves an important role in the Integrated System by protecting the safety, health and welfare of the community. The Frey Farm Landfill is the only municipal landfill in PA to not receive a violation from DEP in 25 years.

The $56M vertical expansion project will maximize LCSWMA’s current landfill site by using mechanically stabilized earthen berms. This design limits the height increase to just 50 feet and lateral expansion to only 9-acres. The result is 6.4 million cubic yards of capacity, which translates to 18-20 years of environmentally-safe disposal for Lancaster County. This project also protects local resources by eliminating the need to acquire new land for landfilling purposes.

Leading to this milestone, LCSWMA invested over a decade in planning for a vertical expansion of the Frey Farm Landfill, including extensive environmental and engineering analyses. The goal was to design a project that provides this much-needed public service (i.e., future landfill capacity), while minimizing its environmental, social and aesthetic impacts.

Through an extensive and comprehensive permit review, DEP determined the public benefits of this project clearly outweigh the known and potential harms. Additionally, DEP undertook an intensive technical review process to affirm the stability of the site and the appropriateness of the project design.

“LCSWMA commends DEP for its diligence in thoroughly vetting the permit application, and for its discernment in determining this project responsibly provides for the future needs of the community,” says Jim Warner, LCSWMA’s CEO. “Receiving DEP approval for the vertical expansion project was a critical step to ensure LCSWMA can continue providing Lancaster County with cost-effective waste management services.”

The modified permit contains numerous conditions to protect the environment and community, including ongoing monitoring of the site and surrounding environment. Additionally, LCSWMA committed to developing a visual landscape synthesis plan to aesthetically blend the Frey Farm Landfill into the surrounding scenery over time.

Construction is slated to begin this fall, to be ready for waste placement by spring 2019.

Tags: Frey Farm Landfill · In The News

Route 441 Truck Bypass Opens

December 17, 2015 ·

After more than 14 years of planning, negotiating and waiting, the borough of Columbia finally has its Route 441 truck bypass.

The $12.7 million project opened today, with two LCSWMA trucks making the inaugural drive on the two-lane bypass, which winds around Columbia’s western edge, between the main business district and the Susquehanna River.

LCSWMA has been a long-time supporter of the bypass, investing $357,000 towards initial project planning and development. Our transfer trucks and ash dump trucks make daily trips through Columbia as they travel between our waste-to-energy facilities and Frey Farm Landfill.

The project, which stretches a third of a mile, will remove a significant amount truck traffic from traveling through downtown Columbia.

Congratulations to Mayor Lutz and the entire Columbia community!

LCSWMA's transfer truck on the new Route 441 truck bypass.

LCSWMA's ash dump truck on the new Route 441 truck bypass. 

Tags: In The News

Riverside Adventures

October 26, 2015 ·

Riverside Adventures
Originally published in Lancaster County Magazine 

Knowing I had to write about the trail, I thought it would be a good idea to walk it. So, on a gorgeous afternoon in late August, I asked Miss Paisley (my dog) if she’d like to go for a walk. Upon hearing the word “walk,” she made a beeline for the front door. Little did she know that our regular jaunt around the neighborhood was being replaced by a stroll along the river.

We arrived early in the afternoon to find parking at a premium. This was one busy place! I couldn’t help but notice how many people were negotiating the trail on wheels; the mode of transportation ranged from tricycles to wheelchairs. I was also struck by the number of young people – toddlers to millennials – on the trail. It was gratifying to know that Mother Nature still trumps cell phones and PCs.

Incredibly, I saw someone I knew. Jared Erb, a designer with the Custom Home Group, came whizzing by on his bike. It was his second time on the trail. “I didn’t even know it existed until I saw it on the website,,” he explains of discovering it mid-summer. While he’s a fan of the Enola Low Grade that’s farther south, he finds the Northwest to be “the most interesting,” due to the variety it offers: river views, wooded areas, farmland, vintage photos, historical comment, and, of course, the White Cliffs of Conoy.

Jared also noticed the youthfulness of the trail’s users that day. “It is encouraging to see more and more young people out enjoying nature,” he says, adding, “I think it’s a wonderful use of tax money, and I’m glad to see the local municipalities investing in projects like this. I hope they finish it all the way up to Harrisburg.”

That is not inconceivable. Hopefully by year’s end, the entire length of the trail – 14.5 miles, stretching from Columbia to Falmouth – will be open.

The Conoy Township portion of the trail began welcoming visitors late in the summer of 2014. In anticipation of increased traffic, the American Legion’s Koser Park, where the trail can be accessed in Bainbridge, was given a facelift. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy the river – or a picnic – before or after you tackle the trail. Ample parking is available and on busy days, an overflow lot is open.

The Back Story

Steve Mohr, who has been a Conoy Township supervisor for 28 of the past 30 years, grew up in Bainbridge. The river was his playground. The Mohr brothers, other family members and friends spent their free time fishing and hunting along its banks.

In the early 80s, Steve learned the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad was being ordered to liquidate its holdings. “I hated the thought of it becoming private property,” he says. “That would have ended our access to the river.” So, Steve approached his brothers and father with the idea of buying the stretch of land in Conoy Township that in places was only 80 feet wide. Initially, his father wasn’t receptive to the idea. “He wanted to know what the heck we were going to do with it,” Steve recalls. The younger Mohr explained they could share it with the public as a recreation area. His father was dubious, saying people were too busy to take the time to walk along the river. Still, he acquiesced, and the Mohrs bought the riverside acreage.

When Steve became a Conoy Township supervisor, he approached his colleagues, Bob Strickland and Joe Kauffman, with the idea of buying the riverfront that stretches north from Bainbridge to the Dauphin County line for recreational purposes. While they were receptive to the idea, they were hesitant, not knowing where the money would come from to pay for the purchase. “So, I approached [County Commissioner] Jim Huber,” Steve recalls. Commissioner Huber arranged for grant money. With the help of volunteers, a trail between Bainbridge and Falmouth was constructed. “It’s pretty primitive, but we’re going to start upgrading it next spring,” Steve says. “I’d love to see it hook a right and connect with the Conewago Trail that goes through Mt. Gretna.”

The Mohrs eventually sold their parcel to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, which in turn leased it to Conoy Township as part of the Northwest trail. “Solid Waste Management has been a good neighbor to Conoy,” Steve says. “They’ve helped us go from a poor township to one that is able to operate more freely.”

Walking Through History

The 10-foot-wide trail, which sits atop what had once been the Pennsylvania Canal (1833-1860), features a paved surface. In places, it’s immediately adjacent to tracks used by the Norfolk Southern Railway. The trail winds its way through woodland that was once the hunting grounds of the Shenks Ferry Indians, who lived in the area from the 13th to 16th centuries. Sweeping river views take in landmarks such as a series of rapids called the Haldeman Riffles. Also of note is the Haldeman Mansion, which was the boyhood home of naturalist and philologist Samuel S. Haldeman. At one point, the trail transitions into a bridge, under which the Conoy Creek spills into the Susquehanna.

Beyond that you’ll spy the remains of a once-thriving industry that entailed the production of limestone and dolomite. In 1846 John Haldeman launched a limestone quarrying business. Farmers purchased the burned limestone for fertilizing, whitewashing and plastering purposes. Steel factories utilized the dolomite to remove impurities in the metal.

In 1895 the quarry was sold to John E. Baker and George Billmyer, who added limestone crushing to the business. A company town soon took root. Called Billmyer, the town eventually grew to 1,000 residents, due in part to the fact that dolomite was in high demand during World War I. Out of that demand, the White Cliffs of Conoy emerged. Waste material from the processing of the limestone and dolomite was dumped along the river banks. “We just might be the only recreation area in the country that’s built atop an industrial waste dump,” Steve says. The trail travels along what had been Billmyer’s Main Street. Remnants of the factory (razed and salvaged in 2004) and the town – row houses, a church, a school, a store and a post office – can still be seen. Like many company towns, Billmyer didn’t have the best reputation. Still, Steve and his brothers frequently passed through Billmyer on their way to the river. “It was one of those places that if you weren’t careful, you’d find yourself in trouble,” he recalls.

Steve reports that one of the quarry’s last employees, Norman Tyson, who just celebrated his 101st birthday, now lives near the trail’s Decatur Street access in Marietta. “He often rides the trail on his scooter,” Steve says.

Billmyer’s water-filled quarry, which until recently was home to the Bainbridge Sportsmen’s Club and the Bainbridge Scuba Center, has been sold to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. The 93-acre parcel includes the 27-acre quarry. “I’d love to see it used in some recreational capacity,” Steve says.

Further downstream are a picnic grove and a clearing from which you can study eagle activity on an island in the river. A short walk then delivers you to Shocks Mill Bridge, an arched, stone, low-grade railroad bridge that was built in 1903. “It was critical to the war effort during both World Wars,” Steve says, noting that it served as this region’s Midwest connection to the East Coast. “Because of that, it was protected by armed guards during both wars,” Steve explains. In 1972, its center section was destroyed by Hurricane Agnes and was quickly replaced, enabling train traffic to continue using it. Today, it serves as a major route for transporting oil from North Dakota to points east. “It required some engineering to get the trail under and through the bridge area,” Steve remarks. “It took major cooperation and blessings among Conoy, LCSWMA, DEP, NCNR and Norfolk Southern.”

Priceless Benefits

Steve says the trail reflects the best of what government and private interests can achieve when they work together. He points to a 200-acre tract of land in East Donegal Township that was critical to the development of the trail. “We partnered with them to buy it,” he notes.

But, according to Steve, he derives the most satisfaction from seeing people use the trail. “We get visitors from all over the place, as far away as Minnesota,” he says of people he’s met over the last year. “And, it’s not just on weekends, but throughout the week. You see the same faces using it every morning and evening. I wish my mom and dad had lived long enough to see it,” he muses. He points out that last year’s frigid weather created a new venue for fans of winter sports. “We didn’t clear the path, so cross-country skiers used it, as did a person who has a dog sled.”

Local businesses are benefitting, too. “We installed bike racks, so people can leave their bikes if they want to walk over to the Bainbridge Inn or up to Gigi’s,” he says. “You know, one night I was down here, and the pavilion in the park was filled with people eating ice cream,” he says of Gigi’s specialty.

Kathy Wagner, who lives in Bainbridge and writes the Second Act column for this magazine, notices that bike riders are coming off the trail to explore the town. “A lot of people stop me to ask questions about our town,” she says. “I think it’s nice that they’re interested.”

Tags: Authority Projects · Community Recreation · In The News · Northwest Lancaster County River Trail · Trail Development

From Ashes to Boathouse: 25 Years at SBU

October 12, 2015 ·

From Ashes to Boathouse: 25 Years at SBU
By Louise Badoche
October 4, 2015

Faculty and students of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences gathered in Endeavour Hall on a rainy October 2 to celebrate 25 years of the Boathouse, an experimental building made from municipal solid waste ash blocks.

“Weather couldn’t be better for the occasion, since this is exactly why the Boathouse was built,” speaker Dr. Frank Roethel said.    

Chemical oceanographer Roethel, has long been interested in  environmental issues associated with the combustion of garbage and finding possible ways to reuse the ash produced as the result of incinerating waste.

The Long Island Landfill Law (1983) left the Long Island’s towns with two choices regarding the management of their waste: truck it off-island or incinerate it. “Today, more than 50% of Long Island’s municipal waste is sent to waste-to-energy facilities where they are combusted,” Roethel said. Every year, 475,000 tons of ash are generated from combustion and disposed in ash fills.      

These ash fills will soon reach their maximum capacity and it is important to find solutions for their disposal, said Roethel.

In the 1980’s, he found a way to safely stabilize the ash and make bricks ready for construction.

With the ash blocks he designed, Roethel built four artificial reefs with great success before building the Boathouse. Over time, the blocks maintained their structure and there  were no chemicals leaching into the water.

Twenty-five years ago, not long after Roethel started teaching at Stony Brook University, the Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (SoMAS) Jerry Schubel asked him to build an experimental building made from municipal solid waste ash blocks in order to protect the boats from rain damage.  

After testing the blocks in laboratories and getting a permit from the New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEC), the Boathouse saw the light in 1990 and is still brilliantly standing among the SoMAS buildings.

The Boathouse has been closely examined and tested over the years. Against all predictions , reports show that the ash blocks maintained their structural integrity, there was no leaching in soils, and no significant change in their chemistry.

Environmental conditions had no impact on the building and surprisingly the strength of the blocks has doubled over twenty five years. “The Boathouse has surely aged better than I have,” Roethel said.

A typical concern among the public is that ash is toxic and therefore ash blocks are too. On Friday, Roethel clearly refuted this belief, explaining the different processes that waste-to-energy facilities put in place to remove harmful chemicals.

Air monitoring even showed that the Boathouse is the cleanest building on campus.  

Using ash for building construction however is not allowed in New York State, but Dr. Roethel states that positive changes are slowly being observed.

“The process is slow mainly because the DEC is conservative and afraid to implement changes,” Professor Swanson, director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook said. Swanson agreed that ash should be allowed for construction.

Senior Moshan Chen, an environmental studies major student who had the chance to work with Dr. Roethel, stated that the idea is great and needs to be pushed further in order to obtain the public support.     

The Boathouse required 350 tons of ash which Roethel said is the equivalent of one day of ash disposed in Brookhaven ash fill. “We would need a lot of boathouses,” Roethel said, engendering laughs in the audience.

Every day, the Boathouse proves that ash can be usefully reused explained Roethel. Some say that it is the most beautiful building on campus, along with being tested as the safest one to breathe in. Yet, critics keep hammering and arguing that with time, ash will disintegrate and bring the building down.  

But today, Roethel remains confident about the benefits of ash reuse and has no doubt that the Boathouse will remain for years to come. He proved to himself and skeptical scientists that ash blocks are a safe and smart way to reuse ash produced from the combustion of garbage.

Dr. Roethel ended his presentation by putting up the quote, “One valid test is worth a thousand expert opinions.” He smiled and said, “I don’t know who wrote it, but I strongly agree with it.”

Tags: In The News · Waste-to-Energy

Waste-to-Energy: The Lost Decades

August 03, 2015 ·

Guest Editorial: Waste-to-Energy—The Lost Decades

By James D. Warner
July 1, 2015
MSW Management Magazine

It’s now 2015, two decades since a new waste-to-energy (WTE) facility was built and commissioned in the United States. (The last one was in Montgomery County, MD, in 1995.) This long period without new facility construction will come to an end in a few months when the West Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority (in Florida) opens a new 3000 TPD facility—their second, in fact. What should we, as an industry, think of these two lost decades without any new development (yes, we had expansions) of this proven technology? When only three general options exist (recycle/compost, combustion, and landfill) to manage our MSW stream, how could a country as large as the US not build a WTE facility in 20 years?

Other regions of the developed world have embraced WTE during the same time period, including almost all of Western Europe (driven by landfill organics bans and $100+/ton landfill taxes), Pacific Rim Countries (now 40% of the global market), as well as other select emerging regions around the globe (i.e., the Arabian Peninsula). According to the latest EPA numbers, the US was utilizing WTE for processing only 12% of MSW in 2013. Twenty years ago, the US was recycling 27% of MSW. We are now recycling about 35% as a nation: a gain of 8%. Landfilling has declined from 57% to 53% in the last 20 years, while combustion has also fallen from 16% to a reduced level of 12% as noted previously. Both landfilling and combustion have decreased an equal percentage to account for the rise in recycling. So, after we recycle 35%, we are landfilling about four of every five remaining tons. This can hardly be seen as “progress” in a country where landfilling is at the bottom of EPA’s own waste hierarchy. I struggle to accept that we are choosing to landfill our MSW because citizens, local government units, and waste practitioners believe it is generally better for the environment. What is the root problem then? And, we if continue on this path, what can we expect in the next 20 years?

WTE had a promising growth spurt from 1985 through 1995. Many of the plants built during that period (including LCSWMA’s in Lancaster County, PA) exceeded performance expectations of their owners and became widely accepted in their local communities. In LCSWMA’s experience, our landfill life was extended from 10 years to 30 years. Our county recycling rate grew significantly from single digits to 43.7% just last year. It is worth noting the recycling rate would only be 40% if not for the recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metal after combustion. We have generated enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of every home in Lancaster County for four years. We have lowered our waste disposal CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) output by more than 10 million tons, versus had we landfilled that post-recycled waste. Our MSW disposal fee is $62.80 per ton, which is lower than the rate at the time our WTE facility opened in 1991. The last debt payment on the facility will be made this year so all future benefits will come without project debt. I now present readers the same question I am asked by residents and visitors after a tour of our WTE facility: “Why aren’t there more of facilities like this in the US?” Good question, but one with a difficult answer.

What has stalled WTE advancement after its initial growth spurt 20 years ago? I think the answer reflects many factors. Some aspects played out more prominently in communities that once considered WTE for their management of MSW, but never implemented a project. Primary factors halting new construction included: 1) environmental activism that effectively disseminate false pollution info on archaic “incinerators” operating in the 1960s and 1970s, while ignoring the advanced APC technologies used today; 2) short-term political election cycles and long term project development timelines; 3) lackluster energy markets putting more project revenue pressure onto waste tipping fees; and 4) the fact that landfills still offer the cheapest disposal option in most, albeit not all, regions of the country.

The lack of WTE development in the last 10 years has been especially disappointing. After the United Haulers decision by the US Supreme court in April 2007 cleared the uncertainty of Waste Flow Control powers of local governments, I thought this resolution would stimulate a new round of WTE procurement in the US. Unfortunately that turned out not to be the case, mostly due to the four factors mentioned above. Additionally, “conversion technology” companies have been hawking their waste processing solutions to communities that demonstrate a desire for something beyond recycling, but also not wanting landfilling and or traditional mass burn WTE. How has that worked out so far for venture capitalist, technology companies, these explorative communities, and the waste industry as a whole? Overwhelming evidence thus far supports a resounding conclusion of “not so well”. In many ways, this is a disappointment because without WTE growth, combined with a plateau of nationwide recycling at 35%, this “fourth dimension” could have carved an effective slice of the hierarchy pyramid somewhere above landfilling. But I for one am pessimistic that it will.

So where does this situation leave us for the next 20 years? What will the MSW management percentages that I began this commentary with be in 2035? Will the primary categories still be only recycling, landfill and WTE? Or will a fourth MSW management category be added because it is processing millions of tons of mixed MSW? I am hopeful that as a country we could reach 50% recycling in the next two decades, but it will not be easy. Can we double WTE to reach processing 25% of our nation’s MSW? I think that is possible with higher value energy markets and more robust energy credit and carbon credit allowance programs. It will also require greater political will of local and regional governments to demand more than just landfilling their waste after recycling. And finally, I think the choice to landfill will diminish, as distances to urban watersheds grow even greater. However, so long as this choice remains the cheapest and easiest for decision makers, it will continue to be the dominate MSW disposal option practiced in the United States for post-recycled waste. 

LCSWMA's Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility 

Tags: In The News · Waste-to-Energy

CGNA is County's New Nature Spot

June 08, 2015 ·

New Chestnut Grove Natural Area is county's newest, most unique nature spot
Photo and article by Ad Crable 

Click here to read this story online.

A prairie in Lancaster County?

A $1.2 million makeover of a River Hills farm has given Lancaster County its newest and one of its most unique natural areas.

The 170-acre Chestnut Grove Natural Area near the county landfill in the River Hills of Manor Township opened to the public Saturday after an intense three-year ecological restoration effort.

The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority owns the property south of Washington Boro and converted it to a passive recreation area as part of its mission of “community sustainability.”

The entrance with a 20-space parking area is located off Chestnut Grove  Road, near its intersection with River Road in the Highville area. The natural area is open seven days a week, dawn to dusk.

Though it offers many diverse natural features, and 4.5 miles of easy-walking trails, the undulating property’s main feel is some 85 acres of open grassland — thousands of native grasses and wildflowers swaying in the wind and buzzing with cabbage butterflies and the calls of red-winged blackbirds.

“It’s very unique for Lancaster County,” says Emily West, the authority’s environmental compliance manager who has watched the spot slowly spring to life. “There are not a lot of open native grass and wildflower areas in our region so it’s a great opportunity for hiking in terms of a lot of vistas.

“It has a little bit of everything for everybody.”

Not the least of which is a new 4.5-mile trail network that not only offers excellent views of wildlife, but also a new choice of circuit hikes in the area for county residents.

For example, there is a missing link for the Lancaster County Conservancy’s Turkey Hill Trail. You  can now hike from Turkey Hill all the way to the Lancaster County Conservancy’s Safe Harbor Nature Preserve, about 6.5 miles.

Just as welcome, the natural area trails connect to the highly popular Manor Township Enola Low Grade Rail-Trail that runs along the Susquehanna between Turkey Hill and Safe Harbor.

Now, you won’t have to walk up and back where the trail dead-ends at a closed railroad bridge. You can hike on a short but steep connector trail to enjoy the Chestnut Grove Natural Area network of trails and hike back to the Turkey Hill trailhead via the new section of the Turkey Hill Trail.

On an advance tour of the natural area several days ago, authority spokeswoman Katie Sandoe was stopped in her tracks by a foreign sound — the sussuring of wind blowing softly through grasses of various heights.

“It’s so peaceful,” she marveled.

Indeed, the wide open space does seem like a place removed from the rest of what you see in Lancaster County.

Attracted to its unique habitat already, a rare sandhill crane visited for several days in December. As we walked along, we saw an indigo bunting, bluebirds and heard a Baltimore oriole.

Wildlife observation is one goal of the restoration project.

The diversity of the site doesn’t stop with the prairie-like grasslands and wildflower meadows.

This ambitious ecological restoration project also features permanent and temporary wetlands, views of the Susquehanna, River Hills forest, streams, ponds and even a stand of American chestnuts, part of the Pennsylvania Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation’s effort to restore the great American tree to the landscape someday.

Elsewhere, about 30 acres of former farmland have been planted with trees and will be allowed to grow into a forest to connect with the surrounding River Hills woods that line the Susquehanna. The newly planted trees are enclosed inside fences 7.5-feet high so deer don’t eat them.

Some 4,350 native trees and shrubs have been planted, not to mention thousands of grasses and wildflowers grown from seed.

Once cornfields and pasture owned by the Barley family and its Star Rock Farms series of properties, the dairy farm was purchased by the authority for another crop: dirt.

Between 2011 and 2012, about 7 feet of dirt was removed from about 86 acres. The 1 million cubic yards of subsoil was stockpiled and will be used as part of the authority’s proposed vertical expansion of the nearby Frey Farm Landfill.

The authority hired an ecological consultant to work with the landfill’s open space committee to restore the site to a native habitat area.

The topsoil that had been scraped off was returned to the landscape and the restoration project began. An old stone springhouse is all that remains from the farm that once included a farmhouse and farm buildings.

Besides the farm, the 170 acres of the natural area includes smaller properties the authority has purchased through the years.

Wildflowers already are blooming, but give it a couple more weeks and the area will be even more colorful, says West.

Indeed, this is a landscape in its infancy; just the beginning of an ecological awakening.

The natural area will fill in over time, get more colorful and lush. But it will take tender loving care. Invasive plants will have to be weeded out. In the absence of bison and wild fires, the prairie-like fields will have to be mowed to goose growth.

This is not a wilderness area. A large power line passes through, there are several homes on the edges and the top of the active Frey Farm Landfill and a pair of wind turbines are visible.

But it is large and diverse and the look and sounds will offer a unique and peaceful experience for those who visit.

Tags: Authority Projects · CGNA · Community Recreation · In The News · Trail Development · Wildlife

Moody's Affirms A3 Rating

March 26, 2014 ·

Moody's Affirms A3 on Lancaster, Pa., Waste Agency

by Paul Burton (The Bond Buyer, MAR 25, 20140)

Moody's Investors Service affirmed its A3 rating on the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority's $19.7 million Series 2006 resource recovery system revenue bonds. The outlook is stable.

The Lancaster, Pa., authority, which late last year purchased the Harrisburg incinerator as part of the financial recovery plan for Pennsylvania's capital city, has an additional $107.5 million of parity debt outstanding, which Moody's does not rate.
According to an agency representative, Moody's was performing routine surveillance on the 2006 bonds.

"Moody's affirmation of their existing A3 rate on this debt is just another confirmation of the financial strength of [the authority's] system," chief executive Jim Warner said in a statement. "The rating also acknowledges the positive structure to the recent purchase of the former Harrisburg waste-to-energy plant and concludes the purchase actually increases debt service coverage for [the authority] through the maturity of the 2006 bonds."

In February 2013, Moody's had warned of a "multiple-notch rating change" should the agency buy Harrisburg's incinerator. The statement by Moody's angered Warner at the time.

The agency in December sold $130 million of bonds to finance its purchase of the Harrisburg incinerator, which it renamed the Susquehanna Resource Management Complex.

Covanta Energy operates Lancaster's home facility across from Franklin & Marshall College as well as the Harrisburg incinerator.

Tags: In The News

Purchase of SRMC Complete

December 23, 2013 ·

LCSWMA has acquired the Susquehanna Resource Management Complex (SRMC), formerly known as the Harrisburg Resource Recovery Facility, for a total purchase price of $129,898,000.  

As part of the transaction, LCSWMA receives $16 million towards the purchase price: $8 million from the previous owner and $8 million from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The purchase is supported by 20-year waste disposal contracts with the City of Harrisburg and Dauphin County, in addition to a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services.

This project boasts the first public to public acquisition of a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility in the United States and was a key ingredient in relieving the distressed City of Harrisburg from over $360 million of debt.  LCSWMA’s newly expanded system will now manage approximately 900,000 tons of solid waste with annual revenues of approximately $85 million. 

 “After 3 years of intense exploration, planning, negotiating, and preparations, I’m thrilled to say that we are the new owners of the oldest operating WTE facility in the United States,” says James Warner, LCSWMA’s CEO. “This innovative, strategic acquisition will provide the region with future waste processing capacity and offer additional flexibility to LCSWMA’s already robust Integrated System.”

As new owner, LCSWMA is now fully managing the site, which includes an 800 tons-per-day, 3-boiler mass burn WTE facility, a transfer station, and two ash landfills.  Covanta Energy will continue operating the WTE facility portion of the site under an amended agreement with LCSWMA.

LCSWMA’s business plan includes a series of capital improvements to the site over the next four years totaling $18.25 million, including: installing new scales and implementing traffic flow patterns to improve on-site time for customers; constructing a new small vehicle drop-off building for residents and deliveries of construction/demolition waste; purchasing equipment for upgrades to the WTE facility; expanding the current tipping floor; constructing a new building for ash storage; revamping the current site entrances; and implementing extensive landscaping work.

The SRMC serves as the drop-off location for waste haulers who collect refuse in Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg.  The SRMC, originally constructed in 1972 and extensively renovated with 3 new boilers and a new turbine generator set in mid-2000s, can generate up to 23 megawatts of renewable energy.  The facility will process approximately 275,000 tons of waste and generate 130,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy each year.  Two ash landfills are also located on the SRMC site—one that closed in 1980 and the other which stages ash from the WTE facility on site.  Once the staged ash is dry, it is transported to LCSWMA's Frey Farm Landfill and used as alternative daily cover.

For more information on the SRMC, visit

Tags: Authority Projects · In The News · Waste-to-Energy

POWERBOOK 2012: Leveraging our regional waste

November 21, 2012 ·

Jim Warner, CEO for LCSWMA, was featured in “POWERBOOK 2012: The midstate’s most influence people”. This special publication is produced by the Central Penn Business Journal and highlights influential people in the midstate community. Read the full story below:


POWERBOOK 2012: Leveraging our regional waste

Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority CEO Jim Warner described as a visionary leader


By Jason Scott

Click here to read this story online at


To hear Jim Warner tell it, he is the conductor of an orchestra who barely knows how to play any of the instruments.


But to hear others describe Warner — CEO of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, the public entity in charge of the county's integrated solid waste management system — he is a visionary who understands how to effectively execute projects that benefit the community and maximize the organization's assets.

"He doesn't talk unless he has a thought. He thinks things over, and he is forceful and direct," said David Nikoloff, president of the 
Economic Development Company of Lancaster County.


Warner serves on the EDC's board of directors.


"He shows up, does his job, thinks ahead and looks at how to run an organization better," Nikoloff said.

The authority, known as LCSWMA, has no taxing powers and receives no government backing on its debt. When it takes on one of Warner's ideas to broaden its reach, the risk is the authority's to bear.

For example, in an attempt to create a regionalized approach to waste management, LCSWMA has put itself in a place to assume responsibility of Harrisburg's debt-laden incinerator, which inadvertently landed the capital city on the world map. Negotiations are ongoing with Harrisburg's state-appointed receiver.

Buying Harrisburg's waste-to-energy facility not only gets the Dauphin County community out of a bind, but it also increases LCSWMA's waste capacity and its flexibility, Warner said. The Lancaster system would increase to 900,000 from 600,000 tons per year with the acquisition.

LCSWMA had been eyeing an expansion of its facility in Conoy Township before Warner's entrepreneurial instinct took over and the authority saw Harrisburg as the better business strategy.

"We don't look at ourselves as having a narrow focus," he said.

The reality is anything but that, looking at LCSWMA's history of partnerships and innovative projects that have become industry standards.

"(LCSWMA) is one of the best in the country," said John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America, or SWANA, a Maryland-based association for industry professionals. "They have a fully integrated system with energy recovery, household hazardous waste, landfill gas recovery. They take full responsibility for their waste."

LCSWMA helped lead the charge in maximizing the recovery of energy from waste, Skinner said. Warner, who is the immediate past president of SWANA, is well respected among his peers for his ability to facilitate, he said.

"Jim is just a leader," Skinner said. "If he is successful at this (Harrisburg deal), he will turn that problem into a regional solution. That is exactly what we want our members to do, think outside of immediate operations."

Given the organization's track record with Warner at the helm, Nikoloff said, he wasn't surprised at all when LCSWMA showed interest in Harrisburg.

"It's about assessing our assets in relation to the opportunities they present," Warner said. "The stronger I can make the organization, the more influence we have to make positive change."

LCSWMA recently found an opportunity to partner with Maryland-based Perdue AgriBusiness on a planned $60 million soybean-crushing plant adjacent to the authority's incinerator.

Perdue wanted a site with renewable energy, and LCSWMA can provide that via its trash-burning plant.

In conjunction with PPL Renewable Energy, LCSWMA installed a 3.2 megawatt wind project at its landfill in 2010. The wind turbines, located along the Susquehanna River in Conestoga, provide 25 percent of Turkey Hill Dairy's annual electricity needs to power its manufacturing operations.

"Most entities would not pursue it, because it's not waste management," Warner said.

LCSWMA generated a 7.5 percent return on its investment with that project.

The authority also has undertaken a solar energy project at its transfer station complex to reemphasize its commitment to sustainability and developed a landfill gas plant that converts methane gas to generate renewable energy.

At the end of the day, Warner said, he sees himself as a public servant first. He just prefers to lead from the front, rather than follow.

He also is very cognizant of community image. LCSWMA's support of the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area and rail-trail efforts along the river are examples of that.

And the authority's Harrisburg Pike facilities blend in with the community so well that travelers could mistake them as being part of nearby Franklin & Marshall College rather than collection areas for waste materials.

Guided by Warner, the authority's community sustainability efforts have garnered widespread interest.

"Everyone in the industry knows LCSWMA. I'm very proud of that," Warner said. "We don't study things to death. We make them work and we make them successful."

Tags: In The News