August 04, 2020

Howland residents to sound off on landfill

HOWLAND — Residents will have an opportunity to tell selectmen how they feel about a special-waste landfill in their town at a special selectmen’s meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the town hall.

Town officials stressed the importance of the special meeting and urged residents to attend.

Town Manager Glenna Armour said the meeting was not a forum to debate the issue, but for residents to express their feelings on the possibility of the state’s siting a regional landfill in town.

Selectman Dave Crocker said the special meeting was as important as the actual “getting out to vote. Be here and let us know where we stand as far as the community, against or in favor of this dump. The town has got to get out and tell selectmen what their wishes are.”

Chairman Jay Nadeau said the state had selected a site within the town and it was up to selectmen to represent the town. “I am not in favor of the state running a landfill in the boundaries of the town of Howland or any other town. I would rather see an independent agent doing it.”

He said the state’s possible selection of a site in Howland was a completely different issue from the landfill proposal considered by residents in November 1990. If the state selected the site in Howland, he said, “what can we do as a municipality to reap the harvest from this ? We have to get some sort of benefits for accepting this or having it stuffed down our throats.”

He said it would not be in the town’s best interest if people went to the site and blocked it by lying down in the road. “What we have to do is face reality. We can still fight it and do it in a positive manner,” he said.

Crocker said if townspeople wanted the town to fight the siting and operation of a landfill in Howland, there was time to do it.

“The state is the one who allowed Guilford Industries to dump TRIS into the river. We should have fought them then,” he said. Officials said the town did attempt to sue, but the burden of proof would have been on the town and it would have had to conduct long-term, costly laboratory tests to prove its case.

Crocker said it was ironic that the state ordered the town to find a source other than the river for public drinking water, but after the town spent thousands of dollars testing for local sites, the state would not approve those sites because the river could backflow to some of them.

“We had to go to (purchase water from) Lincoln and spend so many millions of dollars then.”

If the November 1990 referendum is any indication of how townspeople feel about a special-waste landfill, it is likely they will oppose the state siting one in their town.

By 2 to 1, Howland voters in November defeated a proposed regional landfill project proposed by the Penobscot Indian Nation. With a vote of 527-225, voters opposed an agreement between the town and the nation, which would have authorized the formation of a corporation and establishment of a regional landfill. It would have been operated by Browning-Ferris Industries.

Members of a concerned residents group who earlier expressed strong opposition to a regional landfill proposed by the nation say their feelings have not changed. They said they did not want a regional landfill in Howland, whether it’s operated by a private company or by the state.

“It’s still a dump on the same land. It’s the same old story. It is still close to town. It is still close to Seboeis Stream. The health issue is still there. Do we want money or our health ? We have TRIS in the river. We can’t drink that water. Do we want to leave more toxic waste for our children to deal with?” one resident asked.

“The state is right when they say reduce, reuse and recycle, but now they are saying we should landfill first. That doesn’t make sense,” one woman said.

Another woman said an Penobscot Indian official told residents last year that if the landfill proposal was defeated, it would be a dead issue, yet they turned around and offered the land to the state for a landfill. “What happened to a man’s word?”

Howland is one of six towns the Maine Waste Management Agency is looking at for a special-waste landfill site. Ten 100-acre sites have been identified in six eastern and central Maine communities.

The next step in the search will be field investigations at each site to verify information already collected and determine more specifically some of the important physical characteristics of the sites, such as soil types and the location of wetlands.

The location of the site in Howland is west of Interstate 95, east of Seboeis Stream and north of North Howland Road.

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