AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will hold a two-day public hearing in Augusta next week on a proposal to send in-state municipal solid waste previously incinerated at the Maine Energy Recovery Co. in Biddeford to the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.
The hearing, which is open to the public, will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, and Wednesday, April 10, at the Governor Hill Mansion at 136 State St.
Over the course of the two days, the applicants and 12 intervenors who are formal parties to the process will present evidence and cross-examine other parties about the application filed with DEP last fall by the state’s Bureau of General Services, which owns the landfill, and Casella, which operates it.
Those intervenors include the cities of Old Town, Biddeford and Saco; Penobscot Energy Recovery Co.; the Municipal Review Committee, Inc.; Old Town Fuel and Fiber; ecomaine; Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp.; and Old Town citizens Ed Spencer, Laura and Harry Sanborn, Wanda and David Lincoln and Ralph Coffman.
While only the applicants and pre-qualified intervenors can participate in the daytime hearing sessions, DEP will host an open public comment session beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, to allow the public to weigh in on the proposal.
The plan has proved controversial in Old Town, where the citizen intervenors have made their opposition known.
During a prehearing conference on Jan. 30, Coffman, who owns land near the landfill, referred to it as a “toxic waste site” and took state environmental officials to task for not conducting the public hearing proceedings closer to Old Town, among other things.
Residents of the landfill’s host city also have raised concerns about potential environmental effects, truck traffic, greenhouse gas emissions and odor, to name a few. There also have been allegations of improper waste disposal practices and conflicts of interest involved in the state planning office and DEP’s oversight of Casella.
Casella, however, said that bringing southern Maine trash north to Old Town would change little at the landfill. In its application, the company states that the amount of municipal solid waste diverted from MERC to Juniper Ridge will be offset by the elimination of residuals, such as ash and front-end process residue, that MERC produced when it was in operation and then sent to be landfilled in Old Town.
Because of that, the landfill’s capacity shouldn’t run out sooner than expected, according to the application.
Given the statewide significance of the licensing decision, the hearing and comment sessions are being held in centrally-located Augusta.
Written comments are also being accepted and should be sent to Michael Parker, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, 17 State House Station, Augusta 04333-0017, or by email to email@example.com.
Since MERC closed at the end of 2012, the municipal waste from 14 southern Maine towns previously sent there is being sorted at a new Casella-owned transfer station in Westbrook before being incinerated at Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington or ecomaine in Portland, or sent out of state.
More information about Juniper Ridge Landfill, including the application before the department for review, public comments received thus far and pre-hearing testimony submitted by intervenors is available at www.maine.gov/dep/waste/.