To Dump or not to Dump

southbridge landfill

Photo from Umass.edu

Let’s talk about the landfill and Question 3. Tuesday is election day here in the beautiful town of Southbridge, MA. And I do mean beautiful. Yes, there are some areas that could use a little paint and landscaping, but that is no different than any other town or city in the country. Almost every day I walk around downtown at lunch time and I see the beauty of the buildings. I see signs of rebirth for many of these although I still see signs of neglect in others.

What has this got to do with the landfill? I think the landfill issue comes down to the quality of life in Southbridge, now and more importantly in the future. Both sides claim they stand for the future. The “Yes” faction talks about how much revenue they bring into the town, through dumping fees, the lease and the “free” municipal trash pickup. The “No” faction talks about wells being contaminated, Casella taking some of the airport lands for their use, and noise and odors coming from the landfill.

Each side cites facts and figures, study after study, in support of their side. They both counter the other’s studies with studies of their own, to the point of who can you really believe? I question the information coming from both sides. I have lived in the shadow of the trash pile for the last year and not once have I smelled any foul odors nor heard any excessive noise. I used to hear more noise when I lived in Sturbridge from the Mass Pike and Interstate 84. Of course, I wasn’t here at the time of the infamous landfill fire that went on for many days. I also have town water that hasn’t been affected by any contamination.

Concerning the “lost” revenue, the town manager has already begun moving funds around so most of the landfill money isn’t used for essential services. It is also my understanding that there is a renewed effort by the town to bring in new businesses to help recover this deficit. I have talked previously about how everyone, all departments, all boards and all committees need to work together to make this happen. Whether the landfill closes next year or in ten years is irrelevant, it still needs to be done.

We can argue about the “facts” on both sides but as for me, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Wait, that is something else. In my opinion, there is only one known fact. Throw everything else out since there is no irrefutable proof as to what is contaminating the wells (yes the MA DEP says the landfill is the cause but I am not one who places a whole lot of faith in the state and their findings), the town states they will not sell any airport land to Casella, and revenue can be made up with good planning. This leads one fact that is indisputable: The original section of the landfill is leaking, it is a problem, and will continue to be a problem no matter if Casella stays or goes.

No one knows how this problem will be dealt with or who will be responsible for the problem. Ultimately I believe it will fall on the town. Whatever the outcome of the election this problem exists and will need to be fixed. Either we can deal with it now or in ten years. I don’t think it will matter if Casella stays or they go, my belief is they will fight against whether they are responsible either way. That is for the courts to figure out. The only difference is when the fight starts, next year or 2027?

I believe the determining factor should be, and what has led me to vote “No” is we know the problem isn’t going to go away so why risk the potential for it getting worse by expanding the landfill? Whether the landfill is contaminating the wells now isn’t the problem, but adding more trash runs the risk of doing so in the future. There has already been one fire, there could easily be another. Adding more capacity to the landfill will also increase the truck traffic to and from the operation. This has to have a detrimental effect on the roads and we are already hearing the state and the town have no money to fix them.

I agree we need to do something with our trash. We need to reduce and reuse wherever possible. What we can’t reuse then we need to find a way to convert it to energy. We can no longer afford to kick the can down the road and let someone else worry about it. We’ve done that for the last forty years and where has it gotten us?

I am not a believer in global warming, sure you can call me a denier, I just have not seen the definitive proof it exists. The father of the movement, Al Gore, uses more electricity in his home in a month than must of us use in a year. He has done nothing but profit from the movement. I do believe in recycling and reusing for the simple reason that we can’t keep burying the trash problem and sooner or later we will run out of resources.

The Southbridge Landfill isn’t going to go away anytime soon. We need to address it now. Extending the lease and expanding it is only going to add to the problem. There are scare tactics being used by both sides but the one truth is the problem won’t be going away any time soon. Vote No on question one. See you at the polls.

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