This commentary is from Henry Coe de Danville, a member of DUMP (Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity), an all-volunteer environmental organization in Vermont-Canada.
Do you know where your waste goes? You pay a fee and your black plastic bag disappears. Trucks transport it, out of sight, out of mind.
In Vermont, solid waste collection and disposal is left entirely to for-profit industry. One company, Casella, has a virtual monopoly in Vermont, from garbage collection to transfer stations to long-distance hauling to its own private landfill in Coventry. It is the only landfill still in operation in Vermont, authorized to accept 600,000 tons of waste each year.
Covering an area of 129 acres, it has become a huge mountain of waste, altering the natural landscape adjacent to the southern bay of Lake Memphremagog. The remote and beautiful northeast kingdom has become the dumping ground for nearly all of Vermont’s trash, including Chittenden County. Have the people of the Northeastern Kingdom ever had a say in where Vermont’s garbage is dumped? Not to my knowledge.
The actual landfill where your waste ends up is about a mile south of Lake Memphremagog, an international lake that serves as a drinking water reservoir for the cities of Sherbrooke and Magog, and a total population of 175,000 Canadians. .
As the state’s only operating landfill, it accepts, without inspection, not only a vast majority of Vermont’s trash, but a growing proportion from out of state. The landfill is surrounded on three sides (in places adjacent to) by extensive wetlands, lies within 650 feet upstream of the Black River, the lake’s largest tributary, and about a mile from the lake itself. same.
Yet the state has never insisted on true and objective third-party hydrogeological assessments of the site. The EPA itself has said, “Eventually, all landfill liners leak.” Under current EPA rules, the Coventry landfill, adjacent to the wetlands, would never be permitted.
Would the people of Burlington be satisfied if the conditions were reversed, if the waters of Champlain and Richelieu flowed south and a gigantic Canadian landfill was near the international border, accepting the 600,000 tons of waste from Montreal per year ? We are responsible for our neighbours’ drinking water.
Responsible companies are responsible for the waste they create in their own backyards. Vermont’s solid waste management plan has not been effectively revised since it was written over 35 years ago. It originally called for the establishment of smaller, responsibly located regional landfills closer to the most populated areas.
Instead, thanks to unfettered privatization, we are now seeing the agglomeration of nearly 80% of Vermont’s waste being exported to a single private site in Orleans County, dependent on carbon-spewing long-haul diesel trucking. .
In an era of global warming and discoveries of public health hazards from a growing class of persistent and mobile toxic chemicals, which are found in high concentrations in landfills and garbage juice or leachate from landfills, it’s high time for lawmakers to demand a new Vermont Comprehensive Solid Waste Plan. We must demand that the Vermont Natural Resources Agency modernize outdated solid waste rules and standards to protect public health, our drinking water, and demand environmental justice.
Unfortunately, the National Natural Resources Agency is allowing the toxic mountain to expand and defending the owner against citizen calls for tougher pollution standards and controls. The Coventry landfill – placed over a drinking water reservoir, with its daily production of thousands of gallons of leachate or waste juice, laden with toxic PFAS known as “eternal chemicals” among others – is an unforeseen but inevitable environmental and public health crisis to occur. Strict public monitoring and control is needed.
Casella has applied for a permit to build an “experimental” on-site leachate treatment facility in Coventry. An engineer from Casella told a public meeting that the leachate treatment effluent from his experimental pilot project would go (at the end of the pipe) into the Black River.
This would be in violation of the Clean Water Act which prohibits surface water pollution. The license application assigns almost total responsibility for the design, ownership, operation and monitoring of this unproven and highly complex technology – a technology that has not yet been perfected on a large scale elsewhere – to a private for-profit company.
Filtration or destruction of these landfill toxins is too big a societal responsibility to be left to the company that profits from collecting, storing and maintaining ownership of your waste.
Permits granted to Casella to design and operate an experimental “pilot project” for filtration and monitoring of PFAS pollution releases should be rejected by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources for the public good of citizens and the environment throughout the Memphremagog watershed in Vermont and Canada.