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South Hadley Board of Health urges state to increase landfill monitoring

SOUTH HADLEY — The Board of Health on Wednesday urged the state Department of Environmental Protection to step up its monitoring of the town landfill, saying there is evidence the private contractor running the facility isn’t meeting its contractual obligations.

Board Chairman Walter R. Wolf asked DEP Regional Director Michael J. Gorski to require Advanced Disposal of Ponte Vedra, Fla., to submit weekly rather than monthly reports to the board. Gorski said the DEP will consider doing so.

No one from the company spoke at the meeting, which was attended by about 25 residents.

South Hadley owns the landfill, but the private company operates it. It was formerly run by Interstate Waste Services of Ramsey, N.J., which Advanced Disposal purchased in late 2012.

Abutters have complained for years about noxious odors, before-dawn noise and clouds of dust emanating from the 12 Industrial Drive site.

Last month, environmental group Toxics Action Center of West Hartford, Conn., named the South Hadley landfill to its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of regional polluters. Advanced Disposal was also named a top Vermont polluter for its operation of the Moretown landfill there.

Residents have dubbed the South Hadley operation “Mount Trashmore” for its construction of earthen berms that tower above the tree line. The South Hadley landfill is the first in the state to be allowed to construct such berms. The facility accepts 600 tons of trash daily from 80 to 100 trucks from multiple locations.

Health board member Suzanne M. Cordes said she has combed through monthly 500-page reports filed by the landfill operator for January through November 2012, and has found multiple infractions, including dumping of materials that are required to be recycled, non-compliance with orders to mitigate dust and dirt caused by dumping and an uptick in complaints about odors.

From last January through April, 152 loads were considered “failed,” meaning they contained materials not allowed at the landfill, and six were rejected, she said. From May through November, six loads were rejected and 624 were deemed “failed, but of those, 207 were allowed to dump anyway, she said.

Cordes said the uptick in odor complaints coincides with the company’s November report showing a large discrepancy in the amount of wastewater sludge accepted at the landfill. Under its contract, Advanced is only allowed to accept sludge from the South Hadley wastewater treatment plant. Records show the treatment facility sent 173 tons of sludge to the landfill, but Advanced’s records show more than 200 tons were dumped there, she said.

About the same time, public records show Advanced was under fire in Moretown, Vt., for odors from that community’s wastewater sludge dumping. The records show that Advanced reported it had redirected the Vermont sludge to an alternate location.

“My question is, where was it redirected?” Cordes said.

Victor Anop, a Chicopee attorney representing the complaining residents, said he previously witnessed trucks from the Fall River wastewater treatment plant dumping sludge at the South Hadley landfill.

Not all the odors at the landfill can be traced to dumping, according to Department of Public Works Superintendent James Reidy. He said South Hadley is still dealing with about 50,000 cubic yards of compost from the Oct. 29, 2011, snowstorm that knocked down trees and killed shrubs. Despite the DPW’s best efforts to compost the debris, it has been too much to handle, he said.

Even paying private haulers to remove some of the debris has only eliminated a small portion of it, and offers to give local farmers some of the compost were refused, he said.

“I did the best I could to try to find a place to put this material. I just couldn’t find any,” he said. Last month, Western Massachusetts Electric Co. agreed to let the DPW move some of its compost to an empty lot and work has begun to transfer some compost there, Reidy said.

The health board voted to require Reidy to develop a plan to remove some of the compost from the home of Mohinder Grewal of 8 Eagle Drive. Grewal said the compost pile is 50 feet from her home and attracts “rats, snakes and all kind of vermin.”

Wolf said Grewal and her family “have certainly suffered as a result” of the compost being so near their home.

Etta Walsh can be reached at ewalsh.gazette@gmail.com.

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