HAMPDEN – Pine Tree Landfill will officially shut its gates by the end of 2009.
The state Department of Environmental Protection approved the closure plans Friday, issuing a schedule that becomes legally binding for landfill owner Casella Waste Systems Inc.
Beginning June 1, 2007, the landfill cannot accept any odor-causing waste, such as sludge and municipal solid waste. Construction and demolition debris and “appropriate” cover material, such as incinerator ash and contaminated soils, can be accepted until the entire facility closes on Dec. 31, 2009.
In its closure, the landfill cannot exceed its licensed elevation, 325 feet above sea level, nor can the landfill’s 44-acre “footprint” be enlarged. The document sets deadlines for the closure of specific portions of the landfill, and says the final cap needs to be in place by the end of 2010.
“The general feeling is relief. We’re ready for closure, and it can’t come soon enough,” said Bill Lippincott, chairman of the Hampden Citizens’ Coalition, which has fought any expansion of the landfill.
Since its opening in 1975, the landfill has become a controversial landmark, readily visible from Interstate 95 and the intersecting Coldbrook Road. Area residents have complained frequently about the odors from the landfill, and Casella has meticulously recorded the complaints.
The closure was prompted by the state’s purchase of the Juniper Ridge landfill in Old Town in 2003. That secured sufficient capacity for all waste generated in the state, said DEP Commissioner David Littell.
Since more capacity in Hampden was not necessary to meet the state’s solid waste needs, DEP was set to turn down a Casella application for increased capacity. In early April, Casella withdrew the application.
Instead, Hampden and landfill officials drafted a five-page closure proposal during the summer. It was endorsed in early September by both the Town Council and the Hampden Citizens’ Coalition,
The compliance schedule requires Casella to complete immediate and short-term corrective actions spelled out in June 2005. In response to those concerns, the landfill owner has installed more gas extraction wells and pumped groundwater near the landfill into the facility’s leachate system, said Don Meagher, manager of planning and development for Casella.
“This is a very important step, no question about it,” Meagher said Friday. “In order to complete all that needs to get done, these milestones have to be established and then followed to get to where we need to go.”
Closure of the landfill will prompt the renegotiation of host community benefit funds. The landfill has provided the town with about $3.2 million since host community benefits were negotiated in 2002.
Meagher said he expects the negotiations will happen “quite quickly,” and Town Manager Susan Lessard said she hopes the discussions will occur before the end of the year so that the councilors who played a role in drafting the plan can weigh in on the benefit agreement.
The finite date of the landfill closure presents a new chapter for the town.
“The town of Hampden has not had a planning horizon that did not include this commercial landfill in the past 30 years,” Lessard said Friday.
Hampden has begun updating its comprehensive plan, and the economic development committee is meeting with town staff frequently, Lessard said.
“This gives the town a predictable planning horizon,” she said. “For people looking to move here, or businesses looking to relocate, the ‘what if’ about the landfill has been answered.”
Casella has plans of its own, hoping to build in Hampden a gas-to-energy facility that would burn landfill gases and provide clean energy, Meagher said. The landfill contains enough gas to supply about 3,000 homes over 10 years.
For now, however, the town, DEP and Casella said they are pleased with the mutual agreement that pacifies everyone.
“I think [the closure] is tremendous for the whole area and for the town of Hampden in particular,” said Littell. “It shows that [landfills] can come to an end.”