Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Buried barrels rumor causes tension at Columbia Borough Council meeting

When: Columbia Borough Council meeting, Sept. 7.

What happened: What started as a discussion about how to develop almost 57 acres at the McGinness Airport property turned into raised voices and accusations about who knew about the possibility of buried barrels containing hazardous waste at the site, and when they knew it. The meeting ended with Borough Council President Heather Zink asking fellow members to move for a reorganization if they were unhappy with her leadership.

Reorganization: Any council member may call for a reorganization of officers during a meeting. If the motion passes, council members would elect a president and vice president. Columbia calls for a reorganization every January of even-numbered years.

McGinness background: A Columbia resident sent a message via social media to Council Vice President Sharon Lintner that he hid in the woods and witnessed men burying barrels supposedly containing hazardous waste in the ground at McGinness in the 1970s. Lintner announced the information at the Aug. 24 council meeting, four days after Zink and Borough Manager Mark Stivers closed on the $1.495 million property. Lintner and Howard Stevens voted against the purchase. Zink, Peter Stahl, Fran Fitzgerald, Eric Kauffman and Todd Burgard voted in favor of the purchase.

At issue: The borough resident later told Stivers that he notified Lintner about his claim a year ago. Lintner said she didn't remember receiving or reading an email or Facebook Messenger chat and suggested that the resident may have stated an incorrect time frame. In addition, the resident said he posted about the barrels in an online discussion recently hosted by Zink, who said she wasn't aware of the post.

Quotable: If hazardous waste is found, it "most likely will not be a problem for occupancy" at McGinness, Stivers said after the meeting. The borough will clean up the area if contaminants are found, and plans for an innovation and technology campus will continue.



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