Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What’s Happening With The Landfill?

Ken O’Brien

Today a meeting was held at the Southbridge Town Hall under MEPA, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act administered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The meeting involved a presentation relating to the plan by Casella to expand the footprint of the town landfill.

The matter was brought to the town’s attention on Monday night by local citizen John Pulawski appearing at the Town Council meeting.

Following his statement Councilor Denise Clemence responded that the Council had been advised of Casella’s intent and encouraged any interested Southbridge residents to attend today’s meeting.

Officials from Casella Waste Systems want to expand the sanitary landfill on Barefoot Road by six acres in Southbridge and five acres into Charlton, landfill site manager Tracy Markham said.

 In Southbridge, the Vermont-based waste management company wants to seek a limited site assignment for a 1.9-acre parcel and a 4.1-acre parcel, both off Barefoot Road. Casella owns land beyond the Charlton line and seeks to expand the landfill with a plan that calls for the installation of a landfill liner on 5.7 acres in Southbridge and 5.2 acres in Charlton.

Doing this and completing some other projects that are part of a master plan would extend the landfill's life expectancy to 2024-25, she said. The landfill can take in waste until 2019 based on its present construction and permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection. It has been taking in 405,600 tons per year of municipal solid waste since 2013, when its allowable waste was increased by the state.

The company is preparing a filing under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. Ms. Markham said the company recently gave a presentation to the Southbridge Board of Health. Asked why it is seeking to expand, she said, "We were asked by the town of Southbridge to look at any potential areas of the landfill that could be maximized. This was part of that research and presentation.

“The Board of Health would decide on whether to approve a site assignment. Meanwhile, another parcel that Casella says could be utilized is in the vicinity of McKinstry Brook. Health Director Andrew R. Pelletier said he has told the Board of Health that he is against using that parcel as a landfill, although he said he would be willing to give the company a site assignment there "for other solid waste operations" such as a transfer station, waste-to-gas conversion, or to "pelletize" the garbage for conversion to burnable pellets for wood stoves.

In 2007, town councilors signed a long-term landfill extension agreement with Casella. According to the contract, 36.2 acres, or less than 70 percent, of the 52-acre landfill is being used. Casella officials want to build out the landfill in a planned second phase.

Currently the town receives a $2.4 million a year royalty payment from Casella. The town gets $6 per ton of waste put into the landfill. For the life of the contract, the town also receives free curbside trash and recycling pickup from the town. If the town had to put out a bid for trash and recycling pickup for the town's 6,000 households, it would cost about $1 million, the health agent said. 

In addition, Casella built Commercial Drive, an access road to the landfill and undeveloped industrial park off Route 169, and the company provides the town grants of about $120,000 a year to run the Health Department that Mr. Pelletier oversees. Mr. Pelletier said his eventual goal is to have his department funded independent of the waste management company. In general, Mr. Pelletier called Casella a good steward of the landfill, which he added is "everybody's biggest headache in town," but not its biggest problem compared to more pressing concerns such as asthma rates, incidents of domestic abuse and drug abuse.


  1. One promising matter related to Wednesday's meeting is that there is a two week extension for public comment on the special waiver being sought by the applicant. This gives citizen's, the Southbridge Town Council, the Southbridge observation Commission , and other local boards until Mat 22nd to submit their comments.

    During the tour of the Landfill, about a dozen turkey vultures, protected by law, hovered above. These birds are a risk to airport traffic and despite the contract between the operator and a Federal Agency to resolve this risk to local pilots, the FAA has yet to act.

    It should be noted that the "Public Hearing Notice" published in our former daily newspaper dated January 3rd, 4th, 7th,8th and 9th of 2008 that announced the "minor site assignment" stated that there were "approximately 32 acres" of land at the Barefoot Road Landfill used for disposal. Even the Massachusetts DEP, Southbridge Town Council, AND the Southbridge Board of Health COMBINED do not have the authority to increase that acreage without a "MAJOR site assignment".

  2. *My intention was to write 'Conservation Commission' and 'May 22nd'.

    Anyone wishing to send MEPA comments and would like a copy of the proposal can contact me via ~


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