Video: Board of Public Works Meeting of 7/15/09 – Alternatives to Landfill Expansion

Here is a complete video of the 7/15/09 meeting of Northampton’s Board of Public Works. This meeting discussed the Solid Waste Management Alternatives Study (PDF, 2.7MB). This video is 2 hours and 33 minutes long, and was recorded by Ken Mitchell.

Besides the health impacts of the landfill on residents, we ask these questions:

  • The alternatives to landfill expansion might cost householders more, but what is the value of the water at risk in the Barnes Aquifer?
  • Northampton might not choose to implement one of the newer technologies to process waste, but perhaps it would make sense to ship some of our waste out to a specialized facility?

Here is a two-minute excerpt showing comments from Mimi Odgers of Water Not Waste:

July 17: Dee Boyle-Clapp sent us this comment (reprinted with permission):

I would add that I would like to see plans that address both an environmentally sound and permanent solution to our waste problems. While opposing landfill expansion clearly addresses the need to protect the aquifer, we need clarity on the many alternatives that are available. I want to know what the long-term (more than 20 – 30 years) plans are for this landfill and our region’s long-term trash needs. Can we be working now to reduce the landfill’s intake to extend its life? And heaven forbid, when this is to be closed, where is the town thinking it will place a new landfill? We cannot foist this on a new neighborhood, near water, or other home/property owners, so in my opinion, we will have to work to make this facility last forever.

I would hope that a community as progressive as Northampton could use this moment as an opportunity to leverage much needed change. Is our community aware that other towns are mining their landfills for metals like copper and aluminum and are pulling out stumps, wood and other items that could be better used as compost or fuels? That many communities are using the already burning methane to heat buildings and provide power? (I am aware that this is under consideration.) One pottery studio is actually using landfill methane to fire their kilns!

Communities that utilize this landfill should be taught to pre-cycle, recycle and compost to reduce the volume that is tossed into this facility. We should develop plans to reduce household, school, municipal, industrial and construction waste in every way possible. This may be one of those rare opportunities to push our own community, and others that rely upon this landfill, to make the much-needed changes that will make this limited resource last. It is important when we consider this issue that we not only do so with the intention to protect groundwater, but use this opportunity to look at ways to extend the life of the landfill, and reduce our collective impact on the planet.

See also:

July 30: Northampton City Council Special Meeting on Landfill Ballot Question

Gazette: “Northampton landfill options reviewed” (7/16/09)
The report outlines costs associated with five possible scenarios for the landfill’s future: expanding the landfill and continuing operations as they exist now; maintaining the transfer station on Locust Street, closing the landfill and closing the transfer station on Glendale Road; expanding the landfill, but having the city or a contracted company collect trash and recycling curbside around the city; closing the landfill and implementing a citywide collection program that would transport city waste elsewhere; or closing the landfill and having the city provide no services, leaving residents to contract waste removal as needed.

The analysis also offers examples of new and emerging technologies used to control waste in other American cities and internationally, although board member Michael Parsons said the chances of the city being able to afford one is highly unlikely.

Gazette: “Options for Northampton’s garbage” (7/15/09)
The report was compiled by Canada-based Stantec Consulting Services in association with HDR, an Omaha, Neb.-based firm with expertise in such analysis. Stantec maintains an office in Northampton and has a long history of doing consulting work for the city at the landfill.

In addition to the financial implications, the report provides a broad overview of the city’s trash program, offers several curbside pickup scenarios, and makes suggestions for how the city can move ahead with waste-diversion efforts such as recycling.

It also presents a scenario in which the city gets out of the garbage business entirely, which would mean households paying on their own for garbage pickup by private haulers, at greater cost.

Gazette: “A duel of votes, voices: On landfill future, two possible paths to city’s fall ballot” (7/11/09)

Video and Slides: Public Forum on Innovative Approaches to Manage Northampton’s Solid Waste, 11/19/08
City Engineer Jim Laurila gave a presentation on Northampton’s current solid waste management program (PDF, 54KB). He was followed by Gary Liss of Gary Liss & Associates (“Zero Waste to Cool the Planet”, PDF, 975KB) and Alan Cohen of HDR (“Innovative Approaches to Managing Northampton’s Solid Waste”, PDF, 5.9MB)…

Mayor Clare Higgins asserts that the region has a moral obligation to deal with its trash locally. The Valley Advocate quotes her as saying, “We are providing a regional public service… Western Massachusetts should deal with Western Massachusetts trash. And even leaving the region out of the equation, Northampton has to send its trash somewhere. What are the options? Will we feel good about ourselves if we ship our trash out of state to a poorer community?”

Gary Liss challenges this notion (1:55:10-1:56:30), saying, “I don’t think you have to assume that you have to provide landfill capacity. You could provide transfer capacity. The assumption of having to provide local capacity was in the 80s, when there was a concern that there wasn’t going to be disposal capacity available anywhere, and ‘we’re running out of landfill space’. That was the driver for a lot of the programs of the 80s and 90s. That doesn’t compute anymore with the regional haul…