OLD TOWN, Maine — Household waste that is being diverted to the Juniper Ridge landfill due to a malfunctioning incinerator is causing odor and seagull problems for residents in surrounding towns, representatives of the landfill’s advisory council said Tuesday.
In recent months, the Maine Energy Recovery Co. plant in Biddeford has experienced problems with its boiler that have reduced the amount of municipal solid waste that the facility can process.
As a result, some of the waste that would have been burned at the plant to produce electricity has been diverted to the state-owned Juniper Ridge landfill in Old Town, according to Casella Waste Systems.
Representatives from Casella, which has a contract to operate the landfill for the state, told members of the landfill’s advisory council Tuesday night that they are working to reduce the odors by covering the waste.
Juniper Ridge accepted approximately 170 tons of “bypass” household waste in late November, according to reports filed by the company. All of the diverted waste is coming from within Maine, said Casella’s Tom Gilbert.
Several council members also said they have noticed a significant increase in the number of gulls, which are getting into curbside trash and causing other problems. Gilbert said the company is allowed to kill only so many gulls as a pest-control measure.
He acknowledged that the household waste from MERC is attracting more gulls. Gilbert said the amount of municipal solid waste coming to Juniper Ridge has not been steady but that it will likely continue periodically until MERC can fix the boiler problems.
Council member John Banks said he has recently started receiving odor complaints from Indian Island for the first time. Banks pressed a representative of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection about how the state responds to complaints.
“When does it stink too much so that something is done?” Banks asked
Cynthia Darling, who handles solid waste issues for the DEP for the Bangor region, acknowledged that there is currently no specific measure for an odor violation, although the department does try to respond to complaints.
The department has begun developing rules to address odor complaints, but Darling said the issue is challenging because odors have different effects on different people.
Darling indicated the rules are in early development and could not provide a timeframe for when they might be completed.
“Right now, it is very important if you notice an odor that you do call it in … so that it can be checked out,” Darling said.