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State fines South Hadley $7,500 for excessive debris at composting operation

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection found an overflow of materials in the compost area after odor complaints prompted an investigation. The overflow was found to largely be the result of debris deposited at the site following the October 2011 snowstorm, according to the consent order issued by the state.

The Select Board voted Tuesday to accept the fine of $7,500, which is to be paid within 30 days, as well to comply with the conditions outlined in the consent order to address the violations, said Town Administrator Michael Sullivan.

The fine was initially set at $34,000, but was reduced to $15,000 following the town’s cooperation in working to address the violations, Sullivan said. Within the last two weeks, the fine was again reduced to $7,500. The fine will be paid from the town’s solid waste enterprise fund.

The town has removed an estimated 80 percent of the excess debris under the state’s direction, the consent order states. The order also requires the town to plant a double row of evergreen trees to help mask odors and provide visual screening from nearby residences.

Among other actions to be taken include adopting a new odor control notification plan and new limits on the amount and types of waste that will be taken into the compost area, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he is grateful to the Department of Environmental Protection for responding to citizens’ complaints about the odors. Sullivan also expressed appreciation that the department’s regional staff was willing to work with the town to address the violations and reduce the fine.

“It was a difficult time. It was a difficult storm. Things happened so quickly that the town put itself in a precarious position. Hopefully now we’ve corrected it,” Sullivan said.

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