Review of landfill application underway

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AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection had barely started its review of a determination of public benefit for a proposed landfill/solid waste facility for either Greenbush or Argyle before deciding an extension was needed to get answers to several question.

A landfill in one of those two towns is being explored by the Municipal Review Committee, the organization that represents the 187 Maine cities and towns that currently use the PERC facility in Orrington for solid waste disposal. Because costs are expected to go up – perhaps to double or more current rates – after the current contract ends in 2018, the MRC is looking for alternatives.

Nothing is etched in stone yet, but the proposal has been panned in both Greenbush and Argyle, where residents have raised concerns over the effects a landfill would have on property values, aquifers, the Penobscot River, traffic, and more. At this early stage, the MRC, which has option agreements on parcels in both Argyle and Greenbush, is seeking a determination of public benefit – the first step in the landfill approval process, which typically takes several years.

The DEP accepted that application for review on April 24, with the initial plan being for the review to be completed by June 2. But Karen Knutti of the DEP said in a letter last week to the MRC that will not happen because of the need for additional information, as well as a public hearing that has been requested by dozens of area residents.

In that lettter Knutti raised several issues, including more details on how the MRC calculated its support for a landfill from member communities; documents relating to the MRC’s authoirty to request a determination of public benefit; information on why the MRC doesn’t know who would own and operate such a facility; how calculations of how much solid waste is generated annually by PERC users was calculated; and how the MRC surmised that it cannot rely on other available trash options to dispose of solid waste.

Knutti said that an extension until September 2 is being sought to process the application. She added that the DEP could ask for further information between now and then.

Last Wednesday, the MRC held a meeting in Alton – not the hearing required by the DEP, but rather an informal discussion put on by the MRC – to update area residents on the landfill plans. As might be expected, given the past history of tempers flaring when landfills are discussed, this meeting was no different, with tempers flaring at times and grumbling and mumbling from the audience, and reported cries of “liar” and “answer the question” in a secne reminiscent of a public hearing held two years ago in Orono to discuss expansion plans at Juniper Ridge.

MRC committee members again stressed that no final decisions are made, but also said something needs to be done once the contract expires. MRC members also said that no out of state trash would come to a new landfill, although some residents have wondered, given how the state defines out of state trash, just how true that claim is.