Katahdin towns hope for state decision on Dolby landfill operations

The Dolby Landfill along the banks of Dolby Pond near GNP's former East Millinocket facility.
Stephen M. Katz
The Dolby Landfill along the banks of Dolby Pond near GNP's former East Millinocket facility.
Posted Dec. 16, 2011, at 4:48 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Leaders of Millinocket and East Millinocket will meet next week to discuss how much responsibility they will assume in running the state-owned Dolby landfill, they said Friday.

Officials from the state Planning Office are entertaining offers from both towns and are expected to respond to them next week. East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen will meet in executive session on Monday to discuss progress, town Administrative Assistant Shirley Tapley said.

Millinocket’s Town Council will meet in open session at 4 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss its contribution to the state’s operations of the landfill, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.

Tapley declined to discuss the offer her town’s leaders made to the state, saying state officials asked that it remain confidential until they decided whether to accept the offer.

“Hopefully we will have an answer by then,” Tapley said of Monday’s meeting.

Millinocket leaders will reveal at Tuesday’s meeting the offer they have made, Conlogue said.

At issue is whether or how much both towns would contribute to the operations of the landfill, since the Legislature voted in June to take ownership of the dump.

State ownership of the landfill was seen as a key element to the revitalization of the two Katahdin region paper mills, as no would-be buyer wanted the estimated $254,100 annual cost of operating the landfill and the estimated $17 million it would cost to close and cap the landfill and contain leachate from the Dolby II and Dolby III portions of it. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection provided these cost estimates in a 27-page report to legislators a month before the vote.

Legislators and state officials saw huge potential liability in landfill ownership. They feared the consequences of toxins escaping the dump, which is located about a mile from the West Branch of the Penobscot River off Route 157 in the Dolby section of East Millinocket, and the eventual cleanup and shutdown costs associated with the landfill.

They also saw a potential $46.5 million cost in the landfill if an unused portion of it was turned into a landfill and the site was operated commercially.

While they were grateful for the state’s help in the revitalization of the mills, town leaders balked at operating or helping to operate the landfill. They said their towns were the hardest hit by the mills’ closures and that they lacked the funding, manpower, equipment or expertise to do much more than the simplest maintenance chores.

State officials are still working to determine exactly how the landfill should be operated, and by whom. A private state-hired firm measures leachate from the landfill daily and its workers are on-site at least once a week doing maintenance.

For decades, the landfill was used by the two paper mills and their many previous owners and also occasionally accepted trash from Katahdin region towns.

Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue and George MacDonald, program manager of the Waste Management and Recycling Department of the State Planning Office, which oversees landfill operations, said they saw the landfill becoming a potential moneymaker for the state or the towns if it were operated commercially like the Juniper Ridge landfill.

Millinocket Town Council Chairman John Davis did not immediately return telephone or email requests for comment on Friday.

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