South Hadley landfill to stop accepting waste next year
SOUTH HADLEY — The company managing the landfill has informed the town that it will stop accepting waste in South Hadley’s landfill a year from now, raising hard questions almost overnight about town finances and the future of its trash-disposal needs.
In a March 11 letter to the South Hadley Select Board, Advanced Disposal of Ponte Vedra, Fla., informed the board that South Hadley Landfill LLC, which operates the landfill at 12 Industrial Drive, would no longer accept waste materials next year. The company stated it was exercising its contractual right to do this by providing a written notice to the town with a year’s notice.
A handful of residents who have pressed to stop a proposed expansion of the landfill hailed the news Thursday, though they were also conscious of the effect it will have on the town.
“I’m really happy that it is going to be over in a year in terms of the garbage,” said Lori Eldridge, who lives at 45 Columbia St. “I am concerned, though, about what we will do now with our trash.”
In all, South Hadley receives approximately $1.5 million in benefits from the landfill. The town’s trash and wastewater treatment plant sludge are disposed at the facility free of charge, which translates to a $600,000 annual benefit. In addition to that, South Hadley receives 10 percent of the annual tipping fees, which total about $800,000.
The landfill revenues also fund two household hazardous waste collection days and payments to a Department of Public Works account, which add up to another $65,000.
According to the terms of the town’s landfill operations agreement with South Hadley Landfill LLC, the company is obligated to close and cap the remaining portion of the landfill once it stops accepting waste.
The letter from Advanced Disposal of Ponte Vedra, Fla., came just days after Advanced Disposal canceled a joint meeting scheduled for Tuesday involving the company, the town’s Select Board and its Board of Health to discuss the company’s expansion plans. The plans had been halted recently by the state Department of Environmental Protection for technical deficiencies.
“It’s unfortunate that efforts to address issues surrounding the operations and expansion of the landfill to the satisfaction of all parties involved will now apparently come to a stop,” Select Board Chairman John R. Hine said in a statement Thursday.
Dave Lavender, east regional vice president for Advanced Disposal in Charlotte, N.C., informed town officials in his letter that the company “used all reasonable and good faith efforts to obtain permits necessary for the construction of expansions to the landfill, yet despite those reasonable and good faith efforts, it has become very obvious that further expansions to the landfill are not supported by the town and its residents.”
In addition, Lavender wrote that the town’s Board of Health “has been obstructionist at every turn and has not provided the cooperation.”
Lavender could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Hine said the criticism against local health officials was a matter of perspective.
“The Board of Health has an obligation to the health of its residents,” Hine said. “They’ve certainly been trying to do their job. It’s been difficult.”
One leading opponent of landfill expansion lauded the town’s health officials, saying they brought the truth to light about the landfill.
“They did their job and did it well,” Christine Archambault, of 259 Old Lyman Road, said in an email Thursday. “The landfill operators were consistently not following the site assignment, and the BOH consistently put pressure on them and the Massachusetts DEP.”
Archambault said opponents look forward to working with the Select Board to raise awareness about zero waste and educating residents about options to reduce, recycle and reuse trash.
The South Hadley dump has come under intense public scrutiny in recent years, with some town residents dubbing the facility and its vertical earthen berms as “Trash Mountain” and “Mount Trashmore.”
For years, abutters have complained about noise, noxious odors and dust at the facility, which Toxics Action Center of West Hartford, Conn., named to its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of regional polluters.
Hine said the town will now begin identifying and evaluating options for disposal of the town’s waste materials. Although it’s not out of the realm of possibility that another company could come in and take over operations, he said, “We’re talking about a landfill that has limited existing space.”
Some who opposed Advanced Disposal’s plans believe the town should consider operating the landfill solely for town residents. Gloria Boudreau, of 35 Yale St., notes that only about 3 percent of the trash dumped at the landfill comes from town residents.
“I would think keeping it for residents is something for the town to consider,” she said.
More pressing is addressing the financial impact a landfill closure will have on the town’s next fiscal budget, which begins July 1, as well as the waste disposal options in the near future, according to town officials. The landfill accepts 600 tons of trash daily from 80 to 100 trucks, many of which are from out of town.
“The waste materials now going to the South Hadley landfill will need another place to go, including our own,” Hine said.
Staff writer Chad Cain contributed to this report.