WESTBROOK – The Town of Westbrook and the Department of Environmental Protection are currently negotiating terms regarding the imminent closure of the town’s landfill.
Robert Isner, Director of Waste Engineering and Enforcement said the DEP made this decision because “the landfill has reached its capacity and needs to be closed.”
A draft letter has been sent to the town regarding tentative timeframes.
While Republican First Selectman John Raffa received the letter dated August 11, his former running mate Republican Selectman Robert Mulvihill, and Democrat Selectman Tony Palermo were unaware of the letter until an hour before the Sept. 21 Board of Selectman meeting.
Palermo said at this meeting, Mulvihill had asked Raffa to resign his position since he failed to inform the other Board of Selectmen members in a more timely fashion.
The DEP would like to see the facility close by December, Palermo said.
“It will be a large expense for the closure,” Palermo said, predicting the town would apply for a DEP permit so the facility could continue to operate as a transfer station.
A transfer station status would enable residents to drop off recyclables, car batteries, and other items for temporary storage which would later be taken off-site for disposal.
Isner said the town could also obtain a permit for the site’s continued operation as a leaf collection site.
The closure, Palermo said, would prohibit the site from being used a as a bulky waste facility.
Isner said part of the reason of the closure is to serve as enforcement action taken by the DEP due to violations going back to 1989.
Violations cited by the DEP in the past include failing to have proper permits, failure to control access to the site, allowing illegal items at the landfill, failure to submit surface and groundwater reports to the DEP in a timely fashion, operating a recycling program without a permit, too large of a working face, lack of policing against liter, exposed areas of solid wastes, outer slope grades were exceeded, and absence of fill limit markers.
In a 1998 DEP report, the department specifically said liter found included rugs, cardboard, furniture, newspapers, and general solid waste.
Gromley’s report cited at that time that enforcement action against the town could be costly.
“Civil penalties of up to $25,000 may be assessed for each day of each violation,” Gromely said, adding the DEP could have forced the town to pay fines exceeding $146 million.
When First Selectman John Raffa was asked this past January whether he believed the landfill would be closed, he was certain it would remain open and that enforcement action against the town would be limited to fines.
Recently, Palermo said he does not believe the DEP will assess fines for past violations.
The town will have to pay for 30-year groundwater monitoring of the landfill after it officially closes, Isner said, adding the town will have to submit monitoring tests to the DEP on a quarterly and annual basis.
Groundwater monitoring is essential since according to the DEP, “Several new homes have been constructed adjacent to the municipal operation.”
When asked whether it would be general groundwater monitoring or if specific elements will be tested for, Isner said when determining what types of elements will be tested for, the DEP will consider materials found on the site which were not legally allowed to be there.