Opponents of composting in Lower Oxford Township had little they could say at the conclusion of a prolonged zoning hearing other than to ask the board members to care about the public health, and to enforce the township ordinance.

"There is no reason we can't put this in a building with an air scrubber," resident Dan Moyer said when it was the public's turn to speak.

"I just want to see you follow the rules. We as a community want to keep our area safe," said area resident and health care worker Joel Brown.

Andrew Jones and Michael Losito have been trying to start a composting operation at Reedville and West Branch roads, but contend that the ordinance the township supervisors adopted contains unfairly stringent requirements that they are not able to comply with.

Among their list of complaints, the composters contend that that requirements to put the entire operation indoors are unrealistic, plus the 200-foot setback would make the useable area of the property too small to be practical. They also object to planting trees for screening when the property is higher in the middle, saying the trees would not block any view, even when full-grown.

The June 26 session of the hearing included the last portions of testimony from the applicants, with Jones testifying that the plan for the operation calls for an aerated concrete floor under the composting as well as the usual flipping of materials.

"It forces oxygen into the compost and keeps it aerobic, which is the only way we have to keep odors down in the compost," Jones said. "We do not want our compost to smell. If it smells, that is anaerobic and I'm not making good compost."

Jones also stated that their manure storage and compost area would only be one-twentieth the size of the existing Scott Hyponex plant nearby. He also noted that Hyponex uses spent compost while they will be using fresh manure.

Testimony was also given explaining more of the potential environmental impact from the installation of a composting operation. In this case, the proposed site on the Cloud property was a landfill until 1988. Trash was deposited in rows of trenchers that eventually were covered with dirt. The developers' expert witness, David Farrington, admitted that there are contaminants in the groundwater under the property because of the landfill, but monitoring wells show that they are not leaving the property or turning up in wells or streams. Farrington did not have a full list of the contaminants or the amounts that are present, but some of them he named include vinyl chloride, trichloralethanol and benzene.

It was Farrington's contention that construction on top of the landfill would be a better "cap" that would actually reduce the risk of spread of contaminants by helping shed waterfall away from the site.

In his summation, Attorney George Brutscher, who is representing Jones and Losito, reminded the board that its decision should be based on the evidence and the testimony it has heard, and not on public opinion. "It's not a popularity contest. It's what the law says," he said.

The hearing has been going on for months, and at each hearing, area residents and members of the Southern Chester County Concerned Citizens Organization (SCCCCO) have been on hand to watch and wait their turn to comment.

The SCCCCO went to the extent of hiring Attorney Vivian Narehood to represent it in the proceedings so that it would have a voice during the hearing to present its own witnesses and question the composters.

Narehood and Township Solicitor Winifred Sebastian, as well as Brutscher, each had a chance to give a three-minute summation at the conclusion of the hearing.

"It is a legal use, but it needs to be monitored," Narehood said. "There was no testimony whatsoever that these regulations cannot be complied with."

With all the testimony completed, the attorneys will have until Aug. 18 to submit written briefs to the zoning hearing board. The board may meet in executive session only to discuss matters of law. Its deliberations will be done in public and its decision issued at the concluding meeting Sept. 19.

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