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Facing potential closure, Moretown Landfill Inc. (MLI) is working to improve odor control systems at its Route 2 facility, just last week completing installation of approximately two acres of synthetic capping material and a piping system to drain inundated gas wells.
As construction continues on site, however, state officials continue to sort their way through some 200 public comments detailing the impacts of the landfill’s operation.
On January 15, the public comment period to respond to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resource’s (ANR) intent to deny Moretown Landfill’s recertification of its second and third trash cells was extended by 14 days, so that it will now remain open until February 5 at 4 p.m.
During this time, anyone—including the landfill—can submit testimony, and the ANR will issue a final decision about the fate of the facility in March, 45 days after the public comment period closes.
The ANR granted the 14-day extension after Moretown Landfill requested more time for “its engineers and others responsible with preparing comments on the letter of intent to deny … to address to issues raised,” the landfill wrote in a letter to the agency on January 15.
In November, Moretown Landfill received notices of several environmental violations from the ANR, many of them having to do with the facility’s demonstrated inability to control off-site odors. The notices came after Advanced Disposal Services took over ownership of the landfill from Interstate Waste Services in September in hopes of fixing the facility’s faults.
But when general manager Mike DiMaggio—who was hired by Advanced Disposal earlier this month—started drilling down into gas wells to drain liquid that was inhibiting odor control, the District 5 Act 250 Commission ordered the facility to stop all work, as the drilling technically fell outside of the jurisdiction of Moretown Landfill’s existing permit.
Before the Act 250 order, “MLI anticipated having the first work area completed yesterday, [January 14], which would have afforded MLI about a week’s worth of data from this area to inform its comments [on the intent to deny]. Obviously, this valuable information is now not available to MLI,” the landfill explained in its extension request.
The Act 250 order has since been rescinded, and last Friday, January 25, Moretown Landfill reported that it had completed installation of approximately two acres of geomembrane capping material and a piping system to drain gas wells.
The company has already invested $450,000 in infrastructure improvements to the landfill since September 1 and continues to invest in upgrades to the facility, according to company spokesperson Mary O’Brien in a press release distributed by a community relations consulting firm earlier this week.
Now, the public comment period extension will allow Moretown Landfill the time to test out its upgrades to see how they help control off-site odors. But it will also allow more time for those who do not support the landfill’s operations to submit their testimonies.
“We can’t change the past. Together we can build the future,” Advanced Disposal writes on its website, below a photo of Moretown Landfill’s new geomembrane cap.
According to Ben Gauthier of the ANR Solid Waste Management Division, the agency has already received about 200 comments, both in support and in opposition to the ANR’s intent to deny the landfill’s recertification. “They’ve been coming in pretty steadily,” Gauthier said.
According to the press release distributed by Action Circles, Inc., a firm that offers community relations consulting, Richard Heaps of Northern Economic Consulting has recently completed an economic study on the impact of Moretown Landfill that “highlights the ways Moretown Landfill benefits the local and state economy through job creation, tax payments and its convenient central Vermont location.” More specifically:
Moretown Landfill generates more than $600,000 per year in revenue for the town of Moretown. The landfill creates a total of 20 jobs across the state of Vermont and generates $271,400 in tax revenues for the state each year.
If Moretown Landfill closes, the cost of waste disposal for Vermonters would rise by approximately $3.6 million per year due to higher disposal fees and increased transportation costs. Its closure would also result in the loss of 44 jobs and a reduction of $1.9 million in payrolls.
At this time, no “shovel ready” sites are available for landfill construction in Vermont. One in-state option under consideration would raise hauling costs, and it is only permitted to accept less than 30 percent of the solid waste that Moretown Landfill can accept.