Canadians concerned about border landfill expansion

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(Host) A plan to expand the state’s largest landfill seems to be generating more interest and concern across the border in Canada than in Vermont.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The landfill in the Northeast Kingdom town of Coventry is owned by Casella Waste Management. Casella wants permission to expand the facility so it can truck in up to 370,000 tons of waste a year – nearly all of it produced in Vermont.

The landfill is located a short distance from Lake Memphramagog. The lake’s southernmost end dips down into Vermont, but most of Memphramagog is in Canada. Canadians living on the lake say they’re concerned that the landfill expansion could increase the threat of contamination of the lake. An estimated 200,000 Canadians get their drinking water from Memphramagog.

Michael Sudlow is mayor of Ogden, Quebec, a town of half a dozen small communities strung along the lakeshore. Sudlow says because most of Lake Memphramagog lies in north of the border, Canadians have a lot more to lose if there are problems with the landfill.

(Sudlow) “We feel we’re taking all of the risk should anything go wrong, whereas Vermont and the U.S. has very little of that risk.”

(Zind) Joe Fusco of Casella Waste Management says the landfill may be large by Vermont standards, but it’s small compared to most landfills. And Fusco says the facility is safe.

(Fusco) “Given the technology, given the way these things are constructed, the way they are regulated and the large number of backup systems that are in place, in the extremely rare event that any breach of the landfill occurs it is detected far in advance of any harm to the environment.”

(Zind) The Coventry landfill is one of only two currently operating in the state. He says without the expansion, the landfill would have to close in three years. At that point, he says Vermont would face a significant and expensive waste disposal problem.

Canadian citizens have outnumbered Vermonters at the District Seven Environmental Board hearings on the landfills Act 250 application. Sudlow says he can’t understand why Vermonters who live near the lake don’t seem as concerned as their Canadian counterparts.

(Sudlow) “Maybe they’re just happy with receiving the benefits of this garbage in terms of the financial reward it brings to that area.”

(Zind) The expansion could also affect plans by the Washington Electric Cooperative to build a methane fueled power plant at the Coventry landfill.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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