Among the issues being considered by the Moretown Development Review Board in its review of the Moretown Landfill’s application for a fourth cell is groundwater. At a Thursday, September 27, meeting, board members, neighbors and landfill personnel spent a fair amount of time discussing how the proposed new cell will impact groundwater and local wells.

At the meeting, Moretown Landfill general manager Tom Badowski and Matt Poirer, an engineer with Sanborn, Head & Associates, gave a more detailed description of the landfill’s history and design to help provide residents with the context they need to understand the facility’s proposed expansion.

The Moretown Landfill, which currently consists of three lined cells, has been accepting trash at its Route 2 location for about 30 years. The landfill—one of two in the state—will be forced to close once it reaches capacity within the next year, but if Interstate Waste Services’ application to build a fourth trash cell is approved it could remain open for another 12 to 16 years.

In the preliminary hearings regarding the fourth trash cell—which would be about the size of the existing three cells combined—residents who live nearby the landfill have outwardly opposed its expansion, expressing concern about how it will affect their quality of life.

One of the residents’ major concerns is that leachate from the landfill could pollute groundwater—most notably, their wells. “Folks have drinking water supplies in this area,” DRB chair John Riley said, addressing Badowski and Poirer. “Is that a risk?” Riley asked.

In response, Badowski and Poirer presented a small sample of the type of plastic lining used in landfill construction, in which “the whole concept is to protect groundwater,” Badowski said. Although in the past, the company has detected contamination in the groundwater adjacent to the landfill’s oldest—and only unlined—trash cell, technology has since drastically improved, and the fourth cell would be lined.

In addition to installing lining, Interstate Waste Services is required by the state to sample the groundwater around the facility every six months. When residents questioned the location of the testing sites, Badowski responded, “We’ve studied the hydrology of the site very robustly,” and only test in areas they’ve found could be affected by runoff. Still, Riley said the board can discuss whether or not the town will require additional testing sites.

Thursday night’s hearing, while originally designed to be an overview, evolved into a fairly in-depth discussion of the issue of groundwater pollution. And the discussion isn’t over yet. At the end of the hearing, the board and residents worked together to establish a schedule of meetings for the upcoming weeks, each addressing a separate issue relating to the expansion project, such as that of odor pollution and increased traffic.

In the end, “the million-dollar question is whether this application can be done so that it doesn’t affect your quality of life,” Riley told residents.