Fighting a Juggernaut
To the Editor:
How many of us read those Public Notices that get printed in the newspaper on page 16B or wherever? So, like me you may not have caught the one printed on April 19, 2017 that warned us that the Coventry landfill was asking permission to complete Phase VI and expand their installation. And this has caused a legal conundrum for the local group DUMP, which stands for our objective, Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity.
We always knew we were fighting a juggernaut, but it became crystal clear the measures a corporation will take when DUMP recently began to actively appeal the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) permit of the expansion. Casella’s lawyer, Gravel & Shea, initiated a “Motion for Summary Judgement” to deny DUMP any forward movement in their legal appeal. This was presented when two of our members were “deposed” and required to drive on their own dime to Barre, on different days this past week, to answer the attorney’s questions.
Okay, so what is a “Motion for Summary Judgement?” In this case it is a legal ploy by a powerful corporation to knock ordinary citizens out of the box from the beginning. It seeks on procedural grounds to prevent residents to raise in Court their legitimate concerns such as groundwater and air pollution coming from the landfill. Like many other fascinating topics this legality is one more important piece of the environmental puzzle that a dedicated group of volunteer DUMP members has been deciphering these past 12 months. Please check out the nolakedump.com website and the Facebook page that two individuals in our group have been vigorously maintaining. We’ve learned how to research and document the numerous violations that have occurred at this landfill for the Act 250 proceedings last January and again more recently for the planned legal appeal. Endless hours digging through State records. We’ve learned what’s happened at other Casella landfills in New England, including the closings of the Southbridge MA and Bethlehem NH sites, and what’s happening around the country at “lined” landfills, no longer a “state of the art” solution. We’ve attended conferences and hearings at the VT Legislature on topics relating to the landfill, like water quality, waste stream reduction, and greenhouse gas emissions. One member came up with out-of-the box thinking. both questioning the inefficient transportation system of Casella’s transfer stations (and all those trucks driving on Kingdom roads) and recommending local air monitoring – the latter ultimately becoming part of the Act 250 decision.
Together with Vermont Conservation Law Foundation and Toxics Action, we’ve learned about the dangers of PFAS and how leachate is one of the most toxic aspects of the landfill, with repercussions that last, just the like the “forever chemicals” they are. And with our Canadian neighbors who have been very involved, we’ve emphasized the precautionary principle. 175,000 Canadians are drinking the water that is polluted by the landfill that sits on a watershed. And, no, dilution is not the solution by trickling in leachate toxins over the many past years via a waste water treatment plant not designed to treat PFAS and other carcinogens.
To the best of our abilities we’ve been trying to educate the community with infographics, press releases, fund-raising letters, petitions, select board meetings, and conversation. And we raised questions…which had not been asked before and which did not receive specific answers. Above all, the volunteer work that this group has been doing this past year is because “the environmental train wreck” that is this landfill expansion of 51 acres and 100 feet elevation – it weighs heavily on our conscience.
Back to the “Motion of Summary Judgement.” Casella’s lawyers claim that DUMP cannot legally be allowed to appeal the ANR permit. This is because we are not a “party by right,” having not come to the table in time for the proposed meeting or commenting period in that warning on page 16B (or wherever.) Henry Coe did speak at the sparsely attended public hearing June 21, 2018, warning against the expansion. He helped organize a public awareness meeting for September 10, 2018 in Newport which featured a panel consisting of local citizens, Canadian environmentalists, two chief managers of the Vermont Solid Waste Division of ANR, a representative of Vermont Conservation Law Foundation, and a moderator, Dr. John Elder, Professor Emeritus of Middlebury College. Casella management was invited but declined to attend. However, 130 local and Canadian neighbors showed up, and a lot of new information was shared.
That was when I and most others in the Northeast Kingdom were first made aware of the Coventry landfill expansion project. On Sept. 26, 2018, DUMP was officially established…but unless we’re talking common sense, we were too late for the show. End of trial?
If this matter weighs heavily on your conscience, too, please come join us in a “Silent Demonstration” this Saturday, September 14, 2109 from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Coventry Landfill on Airport Road. This silent demonstration was proposed by a group from Dalton NH: Save Forest Lake. Casella is attempting to establish another landfill in an economically deprived location because they need more room to truck in trash (big money), with the Bethlehem NH landfill having closed due to public protest and the threat of legal suit. These folks were invited to the Casella Open House but they are skeptical and decided to stand in silence instead.
Thank you for reading.