Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Crow Lane Redux: What am I, hard of smelling?

From The Smelly Car

Jerry: Boy, do you smell something?

Elaine: Do I smell something? What am I, hard of smelling? Of *course* I smell something.

Jerry: What is it?


As a City Councilor in Newburyport, I’ve found the Crow Lane landfill has been the single most frustrating issue I've worked on.

Crow Lane is an old private landfill dump, purchased by New Ventures LLC in 2000 with the thought that they would cap the landfill and would make money from the fill they brought in. The capping has been a mess for many reasons but mainly the improper mixing of construction and demolition debris which have caused serious and frequent release of toxic hydrogen sulfide (smells like rotten eggs). The hydrogen sulfide stays at ground level impacting a local school, a daycare, elderly housing, a nursing home, a hospital, and many residents.

In a year and 7 months being on the Council, I and the other Councillors have gotten over 140 complaints about noxious odors. In fact, I got two separate emails tonight and I write this with burning eyes from a visit to the the area about an hour ago.

The odor isn't everywhere, it seems to come in waves, and not everyone is affected by it. But it is too pervasive over the years and again in the last two weeks.

Besides the odor, there are also outstanding questions as to what is leaching into the local watershed and whether the berm which surrounds and contains the landfill is structurally sound.

DEP and the AG's office have been very involved from the days of Romney and Reilly. This is DEP's website on Crow Lane which lists many of the actions the State has taken:

The basic chronology is here:

  • In 2000, New Ventures LLC bought the inactive, unlined, and uncapped landfill which had been in operation from at least 1958 to 1987 under a different owner.
  • In October 2002, a Host Community Agreement between the City of Newburyport and the landfill owner was signed and executed with volume of approximately 460,000 cubic yards to be brought in to cap the landfill within three years.
  • In 2003, the State issued an Administrative Consent Order detailing how the closure should proceed.
  • From 2003 to 2005, there were many issues with New Ventures operations.
  • The Newburyport Board of Health issued several cease and desist orders for various violations.
  • In September of 2006, officials of the Mass. DEP and Attorney General’s office met with Newburyport officials and the public in Newburyport City Hall to announce they will not take over the landfill and instead will enter into a preliminary injunction to assure prompt and proper closure of the landfill by the owner.
  • In October of 2006, Mass. Attorney General obtained a preliminary injunction to control capping and closing of the landfill. The injunction contains more than 25 pages of requirements, protocols and deadlines.
  • In June 2007, Newburyport mayor, other city officials, the state representative, the state senator, and members of the mayor’s ad-hoc landfill advisory committee met with the Mass. Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Boston to recommend a state-takeover of the landfill closure because of the troublesome performance and attitude of the landfill owner that is subjecting residents to chemical exposure, delaying completion and depleting city resources. Request was politely accepted but no action is taken.
  • In July 2007, Mass. DEP notified landfill owner’s lawyer that the owner is not in compliance with the 10/20/06 preliminary injunction for several reasons, including failure to mix demolition debris with soil properly, insufficient geotechnical evaluation of the perimeter berm design, improper operation of the gas treatment system, failure to install gas collection piping and plastic sheeting in certain areas of the landfill, and failure to take measures for controlling and managing contaminated surface water at the landfill.
  • On occasions in the Spring and Summer of 2008 (at an event at Plum Island Coffee Roasters in Newburyport and at a Town Hall Forum in Amesbury) Governor Patrick personally said that his staff would be looking into the matter.
  • On November 28, 2008, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection notified the landfill owner’s lawyer that the DEP inspected the landfill on 11/26/08 and 11/27/08 and found 12 violations of the preliminary injunction of October 20, 2006 and amended on November 1, 2006, and February 22, 2007. These violations included failure to operate the gas collection system and staff the landfill 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, failure to repair and maintain the gas collection system, failure to consistently operate the pretreatment system to meet the required performance standards, failure to pump leachate from the collection tanks, failure to remove leachate from the abutting wetlands, failure to provide DEP with daily landfill gas sampling data, failure to submit weekly inspection reports, and failure to report and respond to odor complaints.

More recently:

  • Since New Ventures essentially had not been allowed to bring in additional materials since the 2006 injunction, the landfill was sitting open to the elements with repeated odor violations.
  • Many Newburyport residents have wanted DEP to take over the landfill, but the State seemed to have no interest in taking over the landfill.
  • In April 2009 Mayor Moak issued an administrative order through the local Board of Health which allows New Ventures to bring in more volume than was permitted in the Host Community Agreement from 2002. At the same time the City and New Ventures signed a covenant which may release the City from liability under the state's waste cleanup law Chapter 21E (in other words New Ventures won't sue the City for the City's alleged dumping at the site decades ago; the covenant says only that New Ventures will provide an agreement not to sue the City, but only after the landfill is successfully capped.)
  • New Ventures and the Commonwealth had a scheduled April 23, 2009 court date to hear the Commonwealth's complaint that New Ventures has violated the 2006 preliminary injunction. The Commonwealth and New Ventures entered into a settlement agreement with a final judgement issued by Suffolk Superior Court Agreement signed by landfill owner and the Superior Court judge setting conditions to permit trucking of additional demolition waste into landfill to resume immediately. New Ventures wants to bring to Crow Lane the piles they have at another site in Everett, materials which are causing odors in Everett. DEP seems to be in favor of having Newburyport as the solution to the Everett problem.
Many of the source documents are here.

What I am looking for now is pretty basic. Because legal maneuvering went on primarily behind the scenes and now the closure activities are mainly being discussed between New Ventures, DEP and a few City officials, a communication strategy to the public has been, to be perfectly frank, ignored by the Commonwealth.

NV’s actions may be the primary reason for the impasse, but citizens also question the State's ability to resolve this regulatory issue. From what I hear from a few City officials, DEP is very involved in a positive way. I am simply asking that the DEP with support from the EOEEA and the Governor's office discuss and update the public on the closure activities.

So what's with the stonewalling? Do we have to threaten to euthanize our pets or blockade Route 95 to get attention? A well run public meeting, perhaps in the framework of a meeting with the City Council, can at least provide an opportunity for dialogue between government and the citizens we all serve.

Specifically, especially now that the odor outbreaks have been rampant in the last two weeks, I would like the DEP to come to Newburyport to tell residents that the capping is be properly monitored and that the State will stand by the City and the residents to ensure that it will be done right and that the odors will be controlled to the greatest degree possible.

Councillor Ed Cameron


Anonymous said...

From William Woodbury
to Ed Cameron
date Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 10:47 PM
subject Re: Crow Lane Landfill odors 7/15/09 7:30pm

Jul 15 (1 day ago)

Thanks Ed for taking the time to check out the problem. We as citizens have been begging with all government bodies for help and salvation of some sort.
For almost 6 years I have written, called, complained suffered to the point of sickness on many occasions, never mind the sleepless weeks on end for my family. Cancelled birthdays etc.. Besides the help from the cities board of health, there has been no help.
The state mandates the closing, but won't get involved. The A.Gs office used us neighbors as chess pieces in court as we testified to the judge. The Mayor signed an order giving away the cities rights to complain and stop the closure if necessary immediately.
I am sure that many people in the city would like us to just shut up and let New Ventures finish the job, make their 15 million plus in profit, and leave us holding the bag. I will fight any S.O.B that thinks we should back off and be poisoned for the good of the commonwealth or city.
By the way, It is 10:43pm and the smell is awful, comes and goes.
Bill Woodbury
3 Charmanski Dr

Anonymous said...

Hold the Governor RESPONSIBLE when he's there on July 21st and have someone from the Boston Globe covering him in Newburyport.

This is unacceptable and Bill Thibeault is running rampid and doing all kinds of sweetheart deals in Everett. Purchasing land from the city then reselling for DOUBLE in less than five months?

Now the state is doing a MassHighway (Project# 602382)

The city of Everett is suggesting to the State that the access road go right through an area that was proposed for relocating Wood Waste. Plans are not final but it look like Bill Thibeault will profit big time from this, on the tax payer dime.

The point to this is he's getting away with all this in both Everett and Newburyport. Doubling his money in less than five months was a sweetheart deal and anyone that questions this, is called a cry baby and council members are called trouble makers. Are we the taxpayers are supposed to just sit back because he threatens law suits????

By the way, Wood Waste has NOT even started to build an enclosure which is supposed to be done by November 2009 per "consent" agreement. Those agreements here and in Newburyport are not worth the paper it's written on.

Bring the Governor proof/readings/ non-compliance consent orders....(in front of reporter) and demand accountability from the Governor, it's the only way.