Saturday, June 20, 2015

Auclair Speaks Out On Casella Amendment

I am writing to the members of the Town Council as I will not be in attendance at Monday night’s meeting. 

I am writing about the final agenda item, item 34, the motion to accept the first amendment to the Casella contract.  In subcommittee there were a lot of agreed upon terms to include in the contract, and I’m confident that a lot will be added without any outside input.  However, I implore you all to take the following into consideration when voting on this item.

1.      The money allotted to the proposed pre-treatment facility:  How is this money being utilized?  What kind of facility will $2.5 million build?  Where are the designs that constitute this money and how do we know that more money will not actually be needed to complete this venture?  To my knowledge, no preliminary engineering plans have been presented to represent this estimate.  There needs to be some kind of justification for this specific amount. 

2.      Trucking in leachate from other communities:  I brought this up in subcommittee, and I don’t feel that it was addressed to the degree it should be.  Although everyone agrees that trucking in this dangerous waste from other communities for the life of this facility is a terrible idea for the town, Mr. Paicos stated that it would be impossible to include language to make the facility exclusive to Southbridge. 

He assured us that we could just say no to this ever happening, and that Casella could just use the (town’s) facility until they no longer have leachate draining from the landfill.  Here is the problem.  Casella is a business.  Once their leachate levels begin to drop and they see a potential for profit, they will begin to seek ways to bring this already operating facility up to capacity.  They will be looking to profit.  Unless the language exists to SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDE ANY OTHER MUNICIPALITY OR OUTSIDE CORPORATE INTEREST I feel that with Casella’s history, we will be faced with truckloads of this toxic substance being transported up to this facility for the long term. 

Maybe it really is not possible to include this language.  If this is the case, I don’t feel this is the right choice for the town.

3.      The extra strain on an already taxed system:  Mr. Paicos explained that a water treatment facility working at full capacity would be able to handle the extra 6 million gallons a year that this pre-treatment plant would produce.  However, our facility is in a state of disrepair.  Years of neglect have required several million dollars in recent history to fix multiple failing components.  I am not an engineer.  I can’t speak to the actual impact but the fact that there is no professional independent study is something that needs to be addressed. 

If the council votes to utilize the $2.5 million in bonding for this project, and then does not expand the landfill (something the citizens are now overwhelmingly against), that may SEVERELY limit our bonding capability in the near future.  So if there is additional taxing on the plant near Big Y, there is a very real possibility that any increase in revenue from the water rates being charged by the landfill would be negated by an increase in cost in maintenance.  Again, there needs to be a cost/benefit analysis taking these things into consideration.   At the very least, an independent engineer needs to weigh in their analysis.

4.      The smell:  Andy Pelletier spoke to the things that are being looked at pre-treated in the proposed plant and smell seemed to be at the top of the list.  The water treatment facility side of town already smells strongly of sewage for 3 seasons out of the year.  The landfill already creates gusts of strong smelling waste for the residents in the immediate vicinity.  We’re talking about adding a third source of foul smelling material in the town of Southbridge.  If the first two sources have not yet been addressed, after all of these years, then how are we to be confident the leachate plant will not release more foul smelling clouds into the community? 

These are the top four things that need answering by independent parties.  I personally think that Kevin Paicos is the smartest and most competent out of all town managers both permanent and interim that I’ve seen in Southbridge.  However, in 30 years, he will be nowhere near Southbridge.  Alternately, in 30 years I won’t even have retired yet.   

This is a long term decision that as of right now, has a lot of loose ends that seem open to interpretation.  This is not something that should be rushed through subcommittee and the council with limited input by trusted professionals in specific fields.  I also don’t think that construction should begin on anything until the proper site assignment and environmental reviews clear Casella and the town for this project.  Casella cites the right to claw-back funds if this project does not pass through local and state boards. 

The town of Southbridge and the Board of Health need to start asking why the landfill’s life expectancy was cut by 50%.  Kirstie Pecci is trying to go through the DEP to find out if contaminated soil is the reason.  There is a huge market in contaminated soil, and there is no process to weigh and track it, as there is for waste.  If Casella has been dumping large amounts of this soil for profit, then maybe it’s time to ask for Southbridge’s share.  I’m writing this ahead of Monday’s meeting, hopefully she will have the answer by then and will be able to share it with you. 

Either way, it’s time to ask for compensation for lying to the community.  They’ve ruined a large parcel of land for generations to come.  If 10 years of profit was originally outlined instead of 20, we probably wouldn’t have the mess we have now.  We would have said no.

Why these are not brought up in “negotiations” is perplexing.  10 additional years of lost royalty payments=$20 million.  They can’t fund a $1.8 million sewer line?  What are the answers to these questions?

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this email.  I appreciate what each and every one of you do for our community and hope you make a responsible and informed decision,

Kristen Auclair
Southbridge, MA 01550


  1. Let me ask this:
    SRD is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Casella. SRD once again wants to use the town's bonding capacity to finance this project. In turn, SRD commits to a repayment schedule.
    My question is, once Casella has reached the end of the useful life of the landfill, what is to prevent the subsidiary from going bankrupt and defaulting on all of its "obligations"?

  2. This was brought up in subcommittee by John Pulawski. His comment was dismissed because the Interim Town Manager stated that it was the nature of business contracts to assume the other party stay solvent.

    In this case, with such a long term commitment I think it's a valid point though.

    1. What long-term commitment. They could liquidate any remaining assets (i.e. the energy production facility) by selling them back to Casella and using the proceeds to liquidate some of their debts but default on the rest. SRD has no other function than running the Southbridge landfill.

  3. I'm agreeing your point is a valid one. The life of the pre treatment facility greatly surpasses any obligations to the town of Southbridge.

    The leachate facility is what I'm citing as the long term commitment.


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