Bill seeks aid for landfill closing costs

Posted Jan. 26, 2010, at 9:09 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:06 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Greenville officials say they played by Department of Environmental Protection rules when they opened their licensed landfill in the mid-1980s, only to discover the interpretation of the same state rules changed a few years later, which made it “virtually impossible” for the town to comply.

Hoping to help the community, which faces about $1 million in landfill closing costs and the development of an alternative, Rep. Pete Johnson, R-Greenville, filed LD 1633, which would allow certain municipal landfills to participate in the state’s remediation and closure program.

The bill, which had its initial legislative airing last Friday, also would cover the West Forks landfill and the older section of the Brewer landfill. A work session on the bill is set for 1 p.m. Thursday.

“We’re hopeful that the bill will be voted out ought to pass,” Greenville Town Manager John Simko said Tuesday.

The remediation and closure program, established in 1988, was designed to help towns close unlicensed and unlined dumps that threatened public health and the environment, and to help with remediation efforts, according to Mark Hyland, DEP director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management. Hyland testified at last week’s hearing in support of the bill.

The state initially reimbursed towns 75 percent of the closing costs and 90 percent of the remediation costs, Hyland said Friday. Towns that closed landfills after Jan. 1, 2000, were precluded from the funds.

The state contributed about $79 million for the closing of about 400 dumps and another $2.5 million was spent for remediation activities at dump sites, Hyland said. He said the state owed an additional $2.1 million to towns for remediation work, an obligation expected to be funded by a future bond. If the bill passes, Greenville, Brewer and The Forks would be included for the funds under that bond.

“The concept is that we were issued a license in 1985, and that license said that the DEP reviewed our design and how we were going to build it,” Simko said. “Then afterward, the DEP said, ‘That’s not working, you’re design is failing because of groundwater contamination.’ The argument is that we did what we were told and that ultimately has resulted in some groundwater contamination. It’s very difficult to meet a zero-tolerance requirement for water contamination.”

While the contamination does not exceed either Maine’s primary drinking water standards or the Environmental Protection Agency’s groundwater protection standards, it does not comply with DEP regulations, an engineering official told selectmen early in the process.

Simko said a landfill is not in compliance if any material that originates uphill of a landfill is detected in groundwater downhill from a landfill; on the other hand, material may flow downhill into the groundwater from sanitary district spray fields as long as the downhill groundwater meets federal clean drinking water standards. “We feel it’s somewhat of a double standard,” he said.

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