HAMPDEN — If all goes according to plan, the construction and demolition debris operation at the Sawyer Environmental Recovery Facility on Emerson Mill Road will be enlarged and enclosed, storage space will be added to the transfer station, and the existing landfill will expand — perhaps to as much as five times or more of its current size by the year 2018.
The Hampden Planning Board last December approved the demolition debris and transfer station plan, but the entire project will be scrapped unless the landfill can be expanded, which is not allowed under current zoning regulations.
Tuesday night, the Town Council is expected to finish refining proposed changes in the zoning ordinances that would allow the expansion. The new language then will have to be approved by the planning board, come back to the council for its green light and go to public hearing. Only if the ordinances are changed can SERF apply for the landfill expansion.
Under the first prong of the proposed plan, which planning board approved Dec. 10, SERF’s construction and demoliton debris operation would move inside a to-be-built 38,000-square-foot building. Debris is now processed in an open area.
A 3,575-square-foot building would be constructed for longer-term storage of solid waste awaiting delivery to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington. Several small loads then could be consolidated into one large load.
According to Donald Meagher, licensing and compliance manager in Maine for Casela Waste Systems, which owns SERF, SERF’s goal is to make the processing operation less visible from Interstate 95 and to more efficiently move waste to PERC.
The second prong of the plan calls for expanding the landfill.
The current landfill, according to Meagher, covers about 12 acres and has a capacity of 450,000 cubic yards. It is expected to be full by early 1999.
The exact dimensions, costs and capacity of the proposed expansion will not be known until the design is final, but Meagher estimates the new capacity will be somewhere between 2.8 million and 3.5 million cubic yards.
The primary goal of the expansion, Meagher said, is to provide disposal capacity for the design life of PERC, which is currently estimated to be 2018.
There are four licensed landfills at SERF’s Emerson Road site, but only one, knowns as the conventional landfill, is active. Built in 1974, it met all engineering standards for landfills at that time, Meagher said, but a major difference between landfills then and now is that landfills built then were not lined. The conventional landfill instead is closed with a clay cap.
The proposed expansion, Meagher said, which will “piggyback” the conventional landfill, will allow SERF to cover the old landfill with a state-of-the-art liner that will virtually isolate it from the environment and prevent water from seeping into it that could reach the ground water.
“That’s a tremendous improvement,” Meagher said, emphasizing that water quality studies have consistenly shown that the landfill has never harmed residential water supplies.
Historically, plans to expand SERF’s operations in any way have met with vigorous opposition from townspeople, but Hampden Town Manager Marie Baker and Meagher said the current plan, which has been under discussion since last summer, has, to date, faced no strong opposition.
“I haven’t heard a whole lot about it,” Baker said, “Some neighbors have suggested they would support it.”
Meagher said SERF has tried to keep the community well informed of their plans. “The consistent message we’ve heard,” he said, “is that people don’t like to be surprised.