The operators of the Moretown landfill have responded to a state ultimatum with a plan they say will address odor problems at the facility.
The state has put the landfill on notice to resolve the odor issue quickly, or face a shutdown order.
The Moretown landfill is located on Route 2, near the Winooski River. It’s just one of two commercially operated lined-landfills in the state. And its owner, Advanced Disposal of Carlisle, PA has asked the state to approve an expansion plan.
But for now, that application is on hold while the state decides if the landfill should remain open.
Justin Johnson is deputy commissioner at the state Department of Environmental Conservation. He says the odor problems seem to getting worse at the landfill.
"The challenge they have is this fairly long history now of problems. We haven’t seen an improvement," he says. "In fact, this year, the last 18 months, is probably the worse we’ve seen in some time."
The odor problems and other environmental issues at the landfill were first brought to light in a series of articles in Vt-Digger.org
Neighbors have complained about a persistent rotten egg smell and a sewage sludge stench so strong that they can’t go outside.
Mark Harklacker, the regional operations manager for Advanced Disposal, says the landfill company has a plan to fix the problem.
"What we’re proposing to do is items like come back in and put an extensive temporary cap over five-plus acres of the site that is not due to be final capped yet," he says. "But the temporary cap would help increase vacuum on the gas system and improve the condition."
In addition, Harlacker says the company will no longer take the really foul-smelling sewage sludge that seemed to trigger many of the complaints this summer.
"We would not any longer accept any material that would have this type of odor," he says. "For instance if there is in-state or out-of-state sludge that we would look to provide a bid on, the odor component for us would be, you know, very, very important for us before we would even consider taking it in the future."
The management team at the facility will also be replaced by Jan. 1. Harlacker says the new team will focus on odor control, as well as managing stormwater and leachate from the site.
Johnson, the deputy state environmental commissioner, says the jury is still out on whether these measures are enough.
"Our technical staff who have experience at landfills both here in Vermont and at other places will review that and will decide whether they believe that yes, they’ve made the case, or no they haven’t," he says.
State officials have warned regional solid waste managers that the landfill could close. If it does, that would leave Vermont with only one landfill, operated by Casella Waste Systems in Coventry.