Speeding along south on Interstate 89, it's easy to miss the large mountain of solid waste along the banks of the Winooski River in Moretown. But for some neighbors, the sights, sounds and smells coming from the Moretown landfill in recent years are hard to miss.
"You have the gas odors that they're very pungent, sometimes like rotten eggs. Sometimes they have a different smell and you can taste it. Then other times it is the trash, more often the sludge, and that just really smells like a sewer," said Martha Douglass of Citizens for Landfill Environmental Accountability and Responsibility.
Douglass started organizing with a couple dozen other neighbors in the past year to call attention to the odors from the municipal trash and sewage sludge that is trucked in from as far as Massachusetts. Landfill opponents also point to the disruption caused by blasting coming from the landfill as it excavates fill and water quality concerns. All these complaints have come to a head at the same time as Moretown Landfill Incorporated has been trying to get a permit that would allow it to expand to a new area. It would add about 20 acres to nearly double the size of the current facility. But it will have to happen fast; landfill managers say the current capacity will be maxed out in just three months. They say the extreme odors last year were an anomaly.
"We brought in a couple of contracts with bio-solids. They tended to be more odorous than what we anticipated. We've moved those odorous materials out of here over the course of time," said Tom Badowski of Moretown Landfill Inc.
Reporter Alexei Rubenstein: So, you're saying it's an isolated incident-- the worst of it?
Tom Badowski: I believe so, yes.
Last year, the landfill was required to set up a hotline for residents when the smells became bad. Nearby residents have logged over 200 calls.
In many ways it's a story of two different Moretowns. Most residents live along 100B and don't have to deal with the sights, sounds and smells coming from the landfill. They also benefit from the more than half a million dollars the landfill provides to town coffers. Then, there are the residents on the other side of Moretown, in the shadow of the landfill, along Route 2 and the Winooski River. They say they're tired of the smells and blasting coming from the landfill and would like it to close.
Select board members, most who live out of sight of the landfill, say it has been a good neighbor.
"They've provided a lot of service in the past. For instance, Irene flood-- they took care of most of the garbage we had in town. They've donated to a lot of different charities as well," said Tom Irwin, the chair of the Moretown select board.
Moretown's Development Review Board is still considering the expansion plans. If that happens, the landfill still needs permits from the Agency of Natural Resources.
With the landfill nearing capacity and the looming possibility that Vermont would be left with only one operating landfill in Coventry, state regulators and even Gov. Peter Shumlin have taken an increased interest in the matter, meeting with opponents this week.
"I think we shouldn't be a receptacle for other states' sludge. It's not quite in keeping with what I would see as being the Green Mountain State," Douglass said.
"These facilities are regional facilities now. There's two in Vermont and the reason there's two, they're time consuming and expensive to operate," Badowski said. "When you and I were growing up, every town had their own local dump. That's not the case anymore."
Facing a waste disposal problem that many Vermonters would prefer to leave out of sight.
Moretown's Development Review Board will discuss the Landfill proposal at its meeting Nov. 20 at the Town Hall at 6:30 p.m.
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