When Mike DiMaggio took over as general manager of Moretown Landfill this January, he took over a facility “that was not even close to meeting our standards,” he told residents at a public forum on Thursday, January 17, in Moretown.
DiMaggio was hired by Advanced Disposal Services, the waste management company that inherited ownership of Moretown Landfill from Interstate Waste Services last September. When the facility was struggling to stick to state standards, “we were asked to fix it,” Advanced Disposal’s chief marketing officer Mary O’Brien explained matter-of-factly.
Advanced Disposal is owned by the same infrastructure investment fund as Interstate Waste, “but it has a completely different management team,” O’Brien said. Unlike Interstate Waste, Advanced Disposal “is willing to invest to fix the problems at Moretown Landfill,” she said. Since September, the company has already spent about $450,000 on the facility, “and we know we have to spend at least $700,000 to do what we have planned.”
Right now, Advanced Disposal is working on its response to several environmental violation notices the landfill has received from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and the Act 250 Commission.
“We know this summer was very, very tough,” O’Brien said, speaking to the surge of complaints of off-site odors in recent months, as residents who live within a mile of the landfill reported that they were unable to host barbeques or even open their windows on particularly smelly days.
Since inheriting ownership of the facility in September, Advanced Disposal has terminated Moretown Landfill’s out-of-state sludge accounts, implemented a test for accepting in-state bio solids, installed video surveillance of gas wells, prepared a temporary synthetic cap for Cell 2 and hired a third-party emissions tester.
According to DiMaggio, “The problem with Moretown Landfill was water in the wells,” he said, explaining that the facility’s underground gas collection systems were filled with liquid and, therefore, could not perform their primary function of extracting odorous air from the trash cells.
DiMaggio is working on fixing this problem, but draining the wells requires digging down into trash, and he warned that the odors could get worse before they get better. The process could be completed in about four weeks, but just last week Moretown Landfill received an order from the Act 250 Commission to stop all work, as the drilling technically falls outside of the jurisdiction of their permit.
Advanced Disposal is currently working on getting the order reversed, but this most recent permit violation could speak to a larger communication issue at hand between not only the landfill and the state but the landfill and its host town.
While the purpose of Thursday’s presentation was to inform Moretown residents about what was going on at the landfill, many wondered why Advanced Disposal hadn’t introduced themselves months earlier.
“What about local permitting?” Moretown Select Board member John Hoogenboom asked Advanced Disposal, explaining that the select board had no idea the company had taken over ownership in September. “Shouldn’t we have been notified?” he asked.
So when residents came before the select board at their meeting the following Monday, January 21, saying that Advanced Disposal was not able to help them when they had to leave their house because of off-site odors, the select board agreed to look into the situation immediately. “I don’t think we should waste any time on this,” Hoogenboom said.