Pig farmer hit with new violations
CLEVELAND TOWNSHIP - In the weeks leading up to a public hearing on Joel Knoebel's overdue farming permit application, he again failed to submit required reports and pay civil penalties for past violations, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Knoebel, who entered into a special agreement with DEP to bring his business, Cleveland Pork, into temporary compliance, and who must submit a new application in order to keep the farm operating at its current capacity, was hit last week with five more violations, including failure to fully pay previous civil penalties by Nov. 1.
"The department is obligated to consider an applicant's compliance history when evaluating a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) permit application for the issuance of a CAFO NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit. Consequently, we recommend resolving all violations as soon as possible," Patricia Havens, environmental group manager with DEP's waterways and wetlands program, wrote in a Dec. 9 letter to Knoebel.
A copy of the notice of violations was provided to The News-Item by Daniel Spadoni, community relations coordinator for DEP's North Central Regional Office, Williamsport.
Knoebel and his representative through TeamAg. Inc., Ephrata, did not return a request for comment for this story.
Knoebel was already served three violation notices by the state for being consistently late submitting required quarterly and annual reports since 2010, and failing to renew his current permit application at least 180 days prior to its expiration.
Knoebel's NPDES CAFO permit, issued June 3, 2008, expired June 2 of this year. In early August, DEP and Knoebel signed a consent order agreement that required the submission of a new application by Sept. 30, which was submitted.
The public meeting and hearing held Monday in Elysburg is required for any new permits, including an expiration as is the case with Knoebel's CAFO.
For the previous violations, Knoebel was ordered to pay $3,925 in civil penalties by Nov. 1 in four installments, but he only paid $3,000 of it so far, DEP reports. The remaining $925 is still owed as of Wednesday, Spadoni said.
Knoebel's third quarter self-inspection report, which was due Oct. 15, was 28 days late, and his September monthly report, which was due Oct. 30, was 13 days late.
A civil penalty for the September violation in the amount of $325, which was due to be paid by Nov. 30, was not paid as of Wednesday, Spadoni said.
All testimony from Monday night's hearing was recorded and will be considered in the permit application, but the department will not make a decision until sometime in the first quarter next year.
Written testimony can be submitted until Dec. 26 to DEP Clean Water Program Manager, DEP's North Central Regional Office, 208 W. Third St., Suite 101, Williamsport 17701.
DEP will respond to each oral or written testimony.
The CAFO in question spawned a lawsuit earlier this year by Knoebel against 57 township residents living in the R-2 Residential Medium Density District near his farmland. Knoebel dropped the lawsuit in July because the residents agreed not to appeal Knoebel's plans for the chicken barn due to lack of funds.
The debate with local residents began in April 2012 when manure was spread on farmland surrounding Wynn School, Middle and Polk roads. Residents complained about the "overwhelming" stench. Building more CAFOs in the R-2 zone, they say, would be detrimental to their health, quality of life and property values.