The Moretown landfill's days may be numbered. With capacity at the 20-acre site set to run out early next year, managers face the choice of either closing or expanding. And without the state permits to expand, time is running out.
"I'm not very optimistic that they can control odors at the site," said George Desch of the Vt. Agency of Natural Resources.
In a letter last week, the Department of Environmental Conservation told the landfill's parent company, Advanced Disposal, that it had until Monday to come up with a solution to ongoing odor violations, and that "At this time the Agency has no confidence that the Facility will be able to prevent nuisance off-site odors given the long history of violations and complaints." Regulators cite a 13-year history of problems, capped off in recent months by persistent complaints from neighbors.
"The history has been compiled. They have significant odors still in spite of the changes they've made to the operations, changes they've made to the physical plant itself, the odors have persisted," Desch said.
Landfill managers told WCAX News they have a number of new ideas to solve the smells that would allow them to expand or even reopen a previously closed cell. But state officials say there is a high bar to satisfy either option.
Closure of Moretown would make the landfill in Coventry the only operating landfill in Vermont. State officials say they do not expect capacity to be a problem when looking at the regional market, although they admit prices could rise. Some trash haulers have a decidedly different opinion.
"It creates a major environmental issue, I believe, which is emissions," said Jeff Myers of Myers Container Service. "Plus the price increase when one person can control pricing. So, I don't believe we can allow one person to control trash that ultimately could control pricing in the state. It would be devastating I believe."
Vt. House Natural Resources Chair Tony Klein helped approve a measure this spring aimed at reducing solid waste in landfills like Moretown. While he agrees that the prospect of a Casella monopoly is disturbing, he says environmental health overrides economics.
"We're there trying to help the entity remain in place, but if they're going to be such bad neighbors and environmentally not do what they're not being asked to do, then I don't think ANR has any other choice but to shut them down," said Klein, D-East Montpelier.
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