John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 04.08.04
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


What in hell are we doing?

The Canadians opposing the planned expansion of the Vermont landfill in the Lake Memphremagog watershed have been granted full-party status by the District 7 Commission holding hearings on the proposal. The Yankee's garbage problem has now become an international issue because of possible migration of toxins.

NEWPORT, VT | The real problem with the NEWS-VT landfill in Coventry, Vermont, is not Casella Waste Management's expansion plan.

The real problem is you and me.

Truth is, we're garbage addicts. But we don't want it buried in our backyards.

We want -- no, demand -- all the lovely stuff in our lives. And it's packaged.

When we're done with our stuff, or tire of it, we toss it out and pay someone to haul it to the dump. They've already carted away the packaging.

It's like the five-gallon flush -- out of sight, out of mind.

And then we get some new stuff.

All this stuff has to be made somewhere out of something.

Those 'somethings' -- the raw materials -- have to be obtained and those processes create waste that must be dealt with.

The manufacturing processes -- many of them involve toxic products -- create waste needing disposal.

Our economic system, to remain healthy, demands more and more stuff to be created so we can consume more and more stuff.

It's buy, boom, and consume or else.

We're stuff junkies on a gerbil wheel headed towards disaster.

Casella Waste Management knows this. They're business people. They're the night soil haulers of our day, collecting our daily discards, hauling it away in their 18-wheelers, and disposing of it for us. At a healthy profit, of course, but that's what business is about.

But, unlike night soil, this buried stuff doesn't go away.

It stays put -- out of sight, out of mind -- and, hopefully, forever.

But maybe not.

That's the fear of the folks who get their drinking water from Lake Memphremagog, some thirty miles below Casella's landfill in Coventry.

Water seeps down through this buried stuff -- we're assured that all the really toxic cast-offs have been removed before burying -- and creates leachate: a liquid concentrate.

We're also assured that safety systems are in place: thick layers of clay and sand, double plastic liners, drainage fields and sump pumps, trained employees with eagle eyes for possible bad stuff, regular inspections and testing, a company with an ecological heart and soul.

What if the safety measures don't measure up? What if some unforeseen catastrophe occurs and all that liquid poison oozes out of the landfill cell into the watershed and thence down the lake?

That's what the water drinkers in Magog and Sherbrooke, Quebec, are asking. That's what the City of Newport ought to be asking.

No one wants this stuff in their backyard, but there has to be a better place than in this fragile watershed. Why isn't anyone asking questions about alternative locations?

Why aren't we asking ourselves: What in hell are we doing?

If the worst thing that can happen does happen, what kind of questions will our great-grandchildren and their offspring be asking?