ANR cites Moretown Landfill for environmental violations

Moretown Landfill entrance
Moretown Landfill entrance. Photo by Audrey Clark

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has cited the Moretown Landfill for 12 alleged environmental violations. Alleged violations include failure to control off-site odors and windblown litter, allowing stormwater to come in direct contact with garbage before flowing into the Winooski River, and failure to report some of these incidents to ANR.

The Nov. 20 Notice of Alleged Violation comes in the midst of local outcry against the landfill’s practices and its pending applications for recertification and expansion.

The notice could affect approval of the landfill’s applications. If the landfill does not expand and continues its current rate of garbage intake, it will be full in February. There is only one other landfill in the state, in Coventry.

The notice states that ANR believes the landfill has violated solid waste management rules and the conditions for certification, both of which are legally binding. The landfill must remedy most of these violations within seven days, or the agency may level penalties or request further action.

Tom Badowski, the general manager of the Moretown Landfill, said by phone this week that many of the problems have been remedied.

“Most of the things were corrected several weeks ago, a month ago, even prior to the notice. It was just part of our maintenance that we do and it got done prior to us even receiving that notice and we didn’t even know that notice was coming,” he said.

Barb Schwendtner, of ANR’s Solid Waste Program, said that she has not yet returned to the landfill to verify if the violations have been corrected, but that “I did get an email from them and some photos that did look like they were making good progress.”

She doesn’t have a follow-up inspection scheduled, but plans to visit the landfill before “the snow flies.”

The Agency of Natural Resources issued Moretown Landfill a Notice of Alleged Violation in April this year, citing some of the same problems, including litter, off-site odors, and erosion of cover material. The state’s follow-up site visit in May found only two out of six violations had been completely remedied. In one case, mine tailings had washed into a stormwater retention pond next to Route 2, less than 200 feet from the Winooski River. The follow-up inspection also revealed inadequate handling of asbestos waste.

Moretown Landfill received nine Notices of Alleged Violation in the last 13 years, plus two court orders to pay a total of $146,000 in fines for environmental violations. From 1999 to 2003 there were four incidents of violations and two court orders. From 2003 to present there were six Notices of Alleged Violations and no court orders. The 2003 fine of $135,000 was in response to 12 violations, the most ever until this month.

According to the notice, the landfill failed to properly maintain the landfill gas collection system, allowing gases to leak out of the landfill and gas wellheads to reach dangerous temperatures. If the temperature inside the collection system gets too high, some of the gases could combust. The landfill also allegedly failed to prevent water from damaging the gas pipes, which allows landfill gas to escape into the air. Landfill gas is composed of methane, a greenhouse gas, hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs, and other gases, some of which are flammable.

The notice also stated that the landfill failed to properly manage leachate, the garbage-infused water that drains from the bottom of each landfill cell. The landfill allegedly allowed leachate to collect in the bottom of cell two until it exceeded the state’s 12-inch limit by four to 16 inches on six days this year. A build-up of leachate inside a cell puts pressure on the liner system, making leaks more likely. The landfill is required to monitor the amount of leachate it pumps out of each cell for just this reason, but according to the notice, there were no operating flow meters on cells one and two from at least the end of May this year until a surprise state inspection on Sept. 20.

The landfill is required to randomly inspect loads of garbage coming into the site. This helps ensure that wastes such as hazardous materials do not enter the landfill, and are disposed of according to law. Moretown Landfill inspected the loads of only two companies, Triple T and Perras Brothers, rather than randomly selecting from among all the loads.

The landfill is required to cover trash with soil periodically, and the solid waste management rules require that the material used to cover the trash is “functional and stable.” The Notice of Alleged Violation stated that the cover soil had eroded into stormwater drainage channels, exposing trash and releasing odors.

The notice also alleged that the landfill operated after the state-imposed curfew on one day and failed to mark the edges of cell three as required.

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Audrey Clark

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  • Ann Young

    Snow has flown.

  • Annette Smith

    The odors have been evident for months. What took ANR so long to issue the NOAV? ANR has been processing an application for expansion rather than enforcing the existing permit. Perhaps it is thanks to the media attention, especially vtdigger.org, for covering the issue.

    In too many instances, ANR is working for the developer and its permittees rather than the environment and public interest. I hope this is a sign that ANR is recognizing their obligation to also protect the environment and the people who live around industrial sites, and enforce permit conditions such as controlling odors.

  • Jim Barrett

    The stench that came from this landfill was evident all Summer and only now has the ANR decided to take action. People traveling interstate 89 had weeks of the smell and nothing was done and I’m sure that many of the people who work for the ANR travel 89……….why did they wait until now to act?

  • Dorian Yates

    The question begs, if there are only 2 landfills in the entire state why aren’t isn’t it operating perfectly? Why can’t the appropriate state agencies manage them? Can 2 landfills be beyond the oversight of the state? If yes we have a much larger problem than just a stinky landfill.
    The other question is where is the trash coming from? Is it only Vermont? I hope so. If not, why is the state permitting garbage from other states to be dumped in Vermont? Especially when the state can not even seem to adequately regulate a landfill?