Moretown landfill prompts more concerns from neighbors
By David Taube
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | November 23,2012
MORETOWN — When Max Fortune’s grandchildren visit from Connecticut, they can smell the landfill even before they get to his house.
He’s complained about the problem for the last 12 years, but it has grown worse, he suggested. In the last year, he’s filed more than 40 complaints about the odor coming from the landfill, he said.
“We feel nothing will be done,” he said. “We’re fed up, frustrated, and we no longer want landfill odors floating over our house and through our house.”
Residents complained Tuesday about odor and dust from the Moretown Landfill at the latest in a series of public hearings being held as part of an application process that could roughly double the landfill’s potential size.
Some residents said the odor is so unbearable that they wake up in the night and ponder renting a hotel. Many said they couldn’t leave their windows open during the summer because of the smell.
An independent environmental consulting firm, Weston & Sampson, has been documenting and responding to odor complaints, but residents said repeatedly the documentation is drastically different from what they’re experiencing. Fortune said after the meeting that because the landfill hired Weston & Sampson, there’s a conflict of interest.
The project could add a new dumping area, called Cell 4, which would be about the size of the previous three cells combined. The operators of the landfill, Moretown Landfill LLC, also need state permits to move the project forward.
The state previously has cast doubt on the company’s ability to continue operating unless the odor issues are adequately addressed.
The landfill has suggested it will need to reduce its intake to extend the lifespan of its permitted capacity. It plans to reduce intake by up to 80 percent beginning Dec. 1 to avoid reaching its permitted limit in February, the company has said.
Residents also complained Tuesday that their vehicles have been covered with dust from landfill operations. The landfill’s general manager, Tom Badowski, countered that a water truck will dampen the road in the future to prevent the problem from recurring, and he suggested he’s aggressively followed up on the issue.
As landfill representatives addressed the issues, though, an attorney for one pair of neighboring residents continued to advise the board on the scope of its authority.
Bristol-based lawyer James Dumont said landfill representatives will testify about health standards and how they meet them. But the purpose of zoning, he said, is to protect property values, and “to turn to them and say, ‘Answer our questions about what we should devise as a local zoning board’ doesn’t make any sense. Your job is different.”
“Ask them, ‘If dust shows up in these folks’ windows and their cars, is that a violation of any state permit?’ And they’re going to tell you, ‘No, it’s not,’” he said. “That’s for you to decide — what you want to put up with in the community.”
Dumont also offered advice when board members discussed whether they could put restrictions on the landfill, such as banning bio-solids, or sludge.
Resident Martha Douglass said there’s no law that prevents the business from accepting as much sludge as it wants. Some residents’ testimony suggested sludge was the reason behind a particularly pungent odor that many residents noticed and complained about Oct. 24.
Board Chairman John Riley asked the company if it could set a policy not to accept bio-solids.
Badowski, the general manager, said it could.
“Could the state of Vermont, in the certification process, impose that as a condition?” Riley asked.
“I don’t know,” Badowski responded.
As one possible solution, Dumont suggested the board review contracts with trash haulers to see if sludge could be banned.
“There may be an escape clause,” Dumont said, adding that a local law or zoning rule or land use condition could be created within the confines of the existing contract to ban sludge or provide some sort of other relief.
Riley, the chairman, indicated the board would likely not review the contracts between the haulers and the landfill.
The Moretown Development Review Board has been holding hearings since September, and the next is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Town Hall. A site visit of neighbors’ homes will be conducted Dec. 8.