Coventry tanker crash causes landfill contaminant spill, injures 1

Casella landfill
Waste is dumped in the Coventry landfill and then covered with soil. File photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Cleanup is continuing after a semi-truck collision in Coventry caused about 8,000 gallons of leachate from the town’s Casella Waste Systems landfill to spill from a ruptured tanker truck.

The incident happened at about 3 a.m. Friday, according to Vermont State Police, near the intersection of U.S. Route 5 and State Route 14. The tanker struck a trailer truck that had crashed in the road, leaving one driver injured.

As of Monday, officials had no indication that the spill affected the nearby Black River, Department of Environmental Conservation analyst Shawn Donovan said.

Both vehicles were operated by subcontractors of Casella, said the company’s vice president, Joe Fusco, and were not Casella trucks. He said each was likely traveling to a location outside the area.

Troopers said Jean Paul Lamoureux, 64, of Newport crashed his 2006 Kenworth semi-truck in freezing rain and icy road conditions. The Kenworth was an empty trailer truck, Fusco said, and was likely headed to make waste pickups. 

Lamoureux began setting up safety triangles outside the truck when a semi-truck transporting landfill leachate came down the road, according to Casella engineer Joe Gay, who emailed state and local officials about the incident Friday.

That truck, a 2016 Kenworth, was driven by 31-year-old Onnie Hart, state police said. Fusco said Hart was taking leachate — liquid contaminated by landfill pollutants — to a wastewater treatment facility.

Hart couldn’t stop his vehicle, Gay said, and lost control while trying to avoid the first truck, striking it and Lamoreaux.

Lamoureux sustained head and neck injuries and was taken to North Country Hospital in Newport.

Donovan, from the DEC, said that about 8,000 gallons of leachate spilled from the tanker, as well as several dozen gallons of diesel. 

Donovan said the state sent a contractor to the site to remove contaminated ice, snow and soil. The contractor was still working as of Monday, Donovan said.

Gay said in his email that oil and hydraulic fluid also spilled as a result of the collision. State hazmat crews also went to the site, troopers said.

Fusco said Casella has a “great deal of concern for the health of the driver who was injured.”

“In our industry, we hate to see these kinds of things happen,” he said.

Joe Fusco
Casella spokesperson Joe Fusco sits in front of a diagram of the Coventry landfill's liner system. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

The trooper handling the case was not available for comment about Lamoureux’s condition Monday afternoon.

Leachate from the Casella landfill has been a primary focus of environmental groups in the area, most notably the group Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity, or DUMP. 

DUMP spent months vocally opposed to the landfill’s expansion, raising concerns about runoff into nearby bodies of water.

Newport resident Pam Ladds, a member of the group, said she was sad to hear about the incident and blamed no one for the collison. 

“But this was an accident waiting to happen,” Ladds said. “Those tanker trucks are enormous. They’re carrying a very heavy load.” 

Ladds said the possibility of spills was a reason the group opposed the landfill expansion, and she wonders whether the fluids released Friday had fouled any surrounding watersheds.

“That’s a dangerous load to be lugging around little country lanes,” she said.

Fusco said that because the trucks weren’t Casella’s, he had little information about the spills.

Elizabeth Gribkoff contributed reporting to this story.

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Justin Trombly

About Justin

Justin Trombly covers the Northeast Kingdom for VTDigger. Before coming to Vermont, he handled breaking news, wrote features and worked on investigations at the Tampa Bay Times, the largest newspaper in Florida. He grew up across Lake Champlain in upstate New York, where he worked for The Buffalo News, the Glens Falls Post-Star and the Plattsburgh Press Republican. He studied English and political science at the University of Rochester.

Email: jtrombly@vtdigger.org

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