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John Mahoney
John Mahoney
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is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

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Posted 02.20.04
Fool's Hollow, Quebec

JOHN MAHONEY

Canadian plea: 'Don't enlarge your dump'

NEWPORT, VT | A Quebec environmental group has urged a Vermont regulatory board to reject plans to expand the Green Mountain state's largest landfill, which is in the Lake Memphremagog watershed.

Casella Waste Management of Rutland, Vermont, wants to bury up to 2500 tons of waste daily in its Phase 4 expansion of its Coventry dump.

The current approved daily rate is 1500 tons at the NEWS-VT landfill, one of the largest in New England.

It would be "reckless and regrettable" to do this, said President Donald Fisher of Memphremagog Conservation (MCI), which is based in Magog, Quebec.

MCI, along with other critics, fear that Lake Memphremagog could be poisoned by seepage from the landfill. Most of the lake is in Canada and provides some 200,000 people with drinking water.

Fisher presented his 1200-member organization's position to the District 7 Environmental Commission which is considering the landfill expansion proposal.

The hearing -- it was the third session on this issue -- was held February 19 in the city office here. A fourth hearing is scheduled on March 18 at 5 p.m. here.

Also opposing the proposed expansion was tree farmer Bob Walker of Brownington, Vermont, a former state legislator.

Walker urged the three commissioners -- they're appointed by the governor -- to turn down the expansion plan.

"I don't understand why we have to accept outside trash," Walker said.

The Coventry landfill will be able to handle all of Vermont's waste if the expansion is approved to 440,000 tons a year. Truckers are already hauling in trash from neighboring states.

Walker also called for increased state monitoring of the existing operation.

The Casella presentation team was professional and well-prepared with facts, figures, and large maps and illustrations. They came across as very sharp, but benign.

Casella's basic message can be summed up thusly:

  • The landfill is safe because "it's a highly regulated facility"
  • There is "no likelihood" of toxic runoff into the Black River or Lake Memphremagog
  • Casella uses only "state of the art" polyethylene double liners that are "resistant to chemical breakdown"
  • In case of "catastrophic failure" their engineered underdrain system will guarantee fail-safe protection
  • Casella will post nearly $10.5 million in bonds to ensure any clean-up and post-closure monitoring and maintenance
  • Casella can be trusted because it has not been found guilty of any environmental violations
Mayor Michael Sudlow of Ogden, Quebec, whose rural community is on Lake Memphremagog, didn't appear convinced by Casella's team of well spoken engineers and professional consultants.

"Perhaps we are being lulled into a false sense of security," he told commissioners. "It seems we are crossing our fingers and hoping everything will turn out fine."

Quebec's regional governing body of the border area -- the Magog-based Memphremagog Regional Council -- voted on February 18 to limit the local Intersan landfill to 60,000 tons a year.

This limit, based on local waste generation, would effectively close down the US-owned Intersan operation, which is what opponents have been fighting to do.

Critics fear it will pollute the Canadian end of Lake Memphremagog, via Lake Lovering and a small brook that feeds into Fitch Bay.

Councilor Paul Amos of Stanstead Township and Mayor Sudlow pointed out to the commissioners the parallels between the plans of Intersan and Casella to expand their operations near Lake Memphremagog.

The Canadian delegation made it clear that they had heard about the Vermont landfill expansion plan just within the past few days.

Chuck Gallagher, a commission staffer, told Amos and Sudlow that currently there were no procedures in place to notify towns in the neighboring country.

He urged Amos, and the other towns, to prepare position papers to submit at the March hearing. Although they will not have official 'party status' Gallagher said the commission would accept their submissions and consider their positions.

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