S.H. Bio Waste, LTD. presented to the Perkiomen Township Board of Supervisors on a Conditional Use Permit Application at the township's October meeting.
The company's principal, CJ Santangelo, explained that biowaste is currently picked up from schools, doctors' offices, and other locations by one of five trucks that the company owns, and is then brought back to the S.H. Bio Waste headquarters in the Iron Bridge Corporate Center to be collected into one truck and driven to Maryland.
Santangelo would like to purchase an autoclave that will allow the company to sanitize the waste on site, allowing the sanitized waste to go directly to a local landfill.
The company has been licensed with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) since 1988, and has never had any sort violations, according to Santangelo.
Blue Bell attorney Michael Clement said that this hearing was only to approve the zoning aspect of this business change, and that there are many additional safety and health requirements from the DEP to be met before Santangelo can purchase the equipment.
One issue that came to light is that, if this equipment changes the nature of S.H. Bio Waste to a processing plant, which is defined by treating and reducing the amount of waste, a distance of at least 300 yards is required between the building and any residential community. In the case of this company, there are residential homes within 300 yards of the building.
Angel Aguiaro, principal of Bondtech Treatment Technology, which sells and maintains 80% of all autoclaves in the business, testified to the safety of the autoclave machinery.
"It's like a pressure cooker that you use at home," Aguiaro said, also likening the machine to the microwave-sized sanitation devices in a dentist's office.
The cycle, Aguiaro said, is to first remove all original air from the machine, condensing it to steam and sending it to the sewer; raise the temperatures to 290 degrees for roughly 25 minutes to sanitize the waste; vent the autoclave to drain the steam directly to the sewer; and then vacuum the air again to prevent odor.
Robert Flaum, of Spotts, Steven and McCoy, is a certified industrial hygienist with extensive autoclave experience who was brought in by Perkiomen Township to review the application.
"The questions I had [initially] were addressed, pretty much," said Flaum.
Flaum's concerns included what would happen with the residual liquid, odor and noise, discharge water temperatures and a sampling manhole, all of which were discussed in Aguiaro's testimony.
Flaum did say that he had questions about the DEP issue regarding if this was a processing plant, but it is not related to the zoning issues.
Roughly 20 residents were in attendance for the meeting, and a few brought up concerns.
"It's a big transition from having four trucks come in and take things to Maryland to this," said one resident, whose property backs up to the business.
Residents questioned the 300-yard buffer required between a processing plant"and residential property, and why the rule stood that way. Clement contended that it is up to the DEP to make that decision and, if a buffer was required, it would completely change the outlook on this project.
Perkiomen Board of Supervisors Chairman Gordon McElhenney repeatedly brought up the safety issues involved when dealing with pathogens.
One resident was concerned about the the company's growth, and a potential for increased truck traffic in the community.
Santangelo said that he had no plans to dramatically increase his business, and Aguiaro confirmed that he would be unable to, stating that it is a regionalized-base business, and the competition prohibits him from exponentially expanding business in this location.
However, Aguiro said it was necessary for Santangelo to continue within the industry.
"The only way he can protect his business in the long term is to put an autoclave in," said Aguiaro.
This issue will be revisited at the next Perkiomen Township Board of Supervisors meeting, scheduled for Nov. 6.
Perkiomen Board Schedules Biowaste Hearing
Other Perkiomen Township Board of Supervisors October News:
Barnside Requests DEP Permit Reinstatement