Should Vermont's only landfill grow larger?

Published: Sep. 11, 2018 at 12:54 AM EDT
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The Gateway Center in Newport was packed Monday night. Vermonters and Canadians sat together to listen to a public discussion about the application to expand Vermont's only landfill.

"Our goal really is to raise awareness, not just in the Northeast Kingdom, but in the whole state,” said Henry Coe, who leads the community group looking to inform the public about the possible changes in their backyard.

"We think it's socially unjust for the rest of Vermont to dispose of their garbage and have it trucked out of sight and out of mind," said Coe.

Currently, the Casella waste plant takes up 71 acres and will reach its capacity in four years. The state says it has filed a permit to add an additional 51-acre expansion and a 10-year permit. Chuck Schwer is the director of waste management for the state of Vermont. He says the expansion will not harm the environment.

"We feel that the operation is very safe right now and an expansion in using the same standards would be very protective of the environment," Schwer said.

Specifically, Lake Memphremagog is a big concern for many people living in the area.

"We can measure and capture anything that may get through the liner, then there is a third level of protection underneath all of that," Schwer said, describing the protection of the landfill liners.

Casella sent WCAX News a statement which reads, in part: "Feelings or biases aside, the inescapable fact is that a modern landfill like Waste USA-- highly regulated, highly engineered, relentlessly permitted-- currently plays an important role in how our Vermont manages the waste it produces, and is a crucial part of the infrastructure necessary to manage public and environmental health."

But at the meeting, Coe says he hopes that more landfills are created around the state so the waste is not just in their backyard.

"We think that a system that decentralizes handling of solid waste and closer to where people generate it, would be the best solution," he said.

But the state says that would cost taxpayer money, especially if it's outside the Green Mountains.

"The further we have to truck it-- if it has to be out of state-- the higher the cost," said Schwer.

Later this month, Casella will host an open house and invite anyone who's interested to the facility to see how everything works.