Pa. residents say fertilizer is making them sick

Tuesday, May 02, 2017 12:34PM
Local Pa. residents say fertilizer plant is making them sick. Chad Pradelli reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on May 1, 2017.

BALLY, Pa. - Some local Pennsylvania residents are raising a stink about a particular type of fertilizer. They say something's changed and now it's making them sick.

The complaints spread from Springfield Township, Bucks County to Bally, Berks County.

Some residents say fertilizer clouds have been hovering over their homes, coating cars, and creating an unbearable stench that's simply making life miserable.

Joe Wolfgang of Bally, Pennsylvania said, "Just made you choke up, you can't breathe, your lungs are burning."

Wolfgang says the fertilizer infiltrating his Bally home is called HatGro, which is basically slaughtered pig wastewater that's dried and mixed with lime, and made into pellet form.

He and other residents gathered for a town meeting to voice concerns last month.

Ann Elderhorse of Bally said, "We ended up with sinus infections. A week and half after, my family ended up in the doctor's office."

University of Buffalo environmental engineer, Dr. Robert Baier, has been testing dust samples provided by Wolfgang and other resident pro bono. He says the samples had a very high alkalinity due to the lime.

He said, "When it gets into the mucus passages or in your eyes or in your lungs, it burns. It stings like hell."

In Newtown, Bucks County, Rick Gillie said, "The smell is probably the most disgusting smell you can imagine. Once it gets in the air, it just stays with you, like a dead decaying body."

Neha Shah of Newtown, Pennsylvania said, "It's like a decaying body, a dying animal."

Hatfield Meats is the maker of HatGro.

David Beane, an environmental attorney, has filed suit against Hatfield Meats, and the farmer who applied the product on behalf of several affected residents, who claim dust blew onto their property.

"This was not a problem until 2015. Something happened in 2015 that changed the application and its that we're attempting to reverse," said Beane.

Clemens Food Group, the parent company of Hatfield Meats, says it trains farmers how to use an apply the product.

The company feels the complaints are few and it doesn't see a need to reformulate it.

Tim Bergere, Clemens Food Group attorney, said, "We're obviously concerned anytime somebody has a complaint about a product the company produces."

Hatfield denies the plaintiffs' allegations, calling the fertilizer organic and safe, and denies the product is more odiferous than other common fertilizers. In court papers, the company also says the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection inspected the Wolfgang's property and found the application did not violate any laws.

Clemens admits the Pa. DEP has asked it about controlling dust from HatGro.

Bergere said, "You don't want to re-engineer a product because in one particular case it may have mis-applied or applied on a dusty, windy day".

Brad Clemens of Clemens Food Group said, "But again, these are people who live in the same communities we do. So if it is something that's important to them, then it is something that is important to us"

Clemens Food Group says it doesn't make a dime off of Hatgro. It gives the product away.

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