In the news

Worcester Telegram
Craig S. Semon

STURBRIDGE - A "big tiramisu” of waste is seriously threatening the quality of the air and water in the towns of Southbridge, Charlton and Sturbridge, according to a local resident and MassPIRG representative.

Kirstie L. Pecci, a Sturbridge resident and staff attorney for MassPIRG, told selectmen Monday night that Casella Waste Systems has filed a proposal with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to expand the Southbridge Landfill.

Casella Waste representatives met with area town officials earlier this year about company plans to expand waste operations beyond Southbridge limits, 4.4 acres to the east and northeast of the landfill, 2.5 acres to the south and 2.2 acres to the northwest, beginning in 2016. This, in addition to a few other projects in the company’s master plan, would extend the landfill's life expectancy to 2024-2025, the company has said.

Ms. Pecci said the landfill, located at 165 Barefoot Road in Southbridge, was built in 2004 on a “de-watered” wetland, which is “absolutely the worst place to a have a landfill in the world.”

“So what we got is a system that can’t possibly be safe, filled with every toxic chemical imaginable,” Ms. Pecci said. “And because we got 400,000 tons a year going into this landfill, it’s a significant amount of toxicity that is entering our community.”

Ms. Pecci said if this expansion is allowed, Casella will have the capacity to dump almost 4.5 million additional tons of municipal solid waste at the landfill over the next 11 years.

“A landfill is kind of like a big tiramisu,” Ms. Pecci said. “You build layers of waste in each landfill cell. … And through those layers of waste, the leachate pipes are inserted and then, also, landfill gas pipes are inserted. The leachate pipes collect liquid, kind of garbage coffee that’s made from liquid coming into the garbage and getting out. And, the landfill gas pipes collect any landfill gas. When the landfill’s full over a period of years, after it’s filled, a top layer is put on, a plastic layer similar to the one on the bottom, and grass and soil is put on the top.”

Ms. Pecci said there are two problems with municipal solid waste landfills: the “garbage coffee” picks up any toxic material in the garbage and enters the water stream; and landfill contains every “nasty chemical” you can think of.

Selectmen voted in favor of having the town administrator draft a letter expressing their concerns about the proposed expansions of the landfill.

In addition, Ms. Pecci said, every landfill eventually leaks.

Casella’s expert at the last site assignment hearing in 2008 said specifically, "all liners leak,” Ms. Pecci said. “I say, ‘The question is not if it’s going to leak. It’s when is it going to leak and how much they’re going to leak.’ ”

Already, 1,4-dioxane (a carcinogen used as a solvent) has been detected in at least one residential well in Charlton, Ms. Pecci said.

“If you’re looking at the protection of the Sturbridge wetlands, as well as the wells and the aquifers of Sturbridge, this is really dangerous and really problematic,” Ms. Pecci said. “And the benefit is solely monetary. This is a regional landfill that's taking rates from New York, Connecticut, Boston, all over New England, and it’s bringing money into the town of Southbridge. But the cost at the other end to remediate the damage to people’s wells and possibly our aquifers, and never mind the wetlands, is astronomical.”

Ms. Pecci said she wants selectmen - as well as other municipal boards, committees and concerned residents - to express their concerns about the proposed landfill expansion by Friday. She urged any questions or comments about the proposal to be emailed to Page Czepiga at, or mailed to Secretary Matthew A. Beaton, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900, Boston, MA 02114, Attn: Ms. Page Czepiga.

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