Northampton Redoubt: “Landfill question letter submitted to Gazette by Andrew Woodland”

Northampton Redoubt has kindly given us permission to reprint this post from yesterday:

Landfill question letter submitted to Gazette by Andrew Woodland

To the Editor (submitted Sept. 15 via email):

Ward 3 City Councilor Bob Reckman today submitted a proposed amendment to the landfill expansion referendum language. While I applaud the council’s effort to put this issue in front of the citizens of Northampton, there are two bullet points that very much concern me in the proposed language. One bullet point intended to illustrate a “benefit” of not expanding the landfill indicates:

“Although multiple state and independent studies have shown there is no new environmental risk, allay the concerns of some citizens about such possible risks.” Similarly, another bullet point states: “(Although multiple state and independent studies have shown there is no health risk), end the concern of some citizens about possible health risks associated with living near an active landfill.”

Both bullet points fail to acknowledge that the science behind the landfill expansion is very much in debate, reflecting only one pro-landfill expansion bias.

In reviewing some of the studies Reckman refers to, Dr. Robert Newman, a well respected Smith College professor and geologist, expressed some serious and valid concerns regarding new health and environmental risks posed by landfill expansion and presented those concerns in a public forum. Some city councilors chose not to attend.

Let’s be clear: allaying citizen’s concerns regarding health and environmental risks is not the benefit of not expanding the landfill. Eliminating any *potential* for new health and environmental risks is, in fact, the benefit of not expanding the landfill.

In its current form in Reckman’s proposal, the referendum is more of a push-poll (a “poll” that appears to be question but really serves as a marketing piece for a particular perspective) rather than a poll. Let’s change the wording of the bullet points accordingly:

“Eliminate any possible environmental risks.”

“Eliminate any possible health risks”

Let’s give the voters of Northampton real choices, not biases.

Andrew Woodland

(The Reckman proposal Woodland refers to is pasted below.)

Ordered, that

A Non-Binding Advisory Question

“Do you favor expanding the Glendale Rd. Landfill?”

The Northampton landfill on Glendale Rd. will reach capacity in 2011 and be closed. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has granted The City of Northampton a waiver to expand the landfill.

A “Yes” vote to expand the landfill will:

–Allow the City to take responsibility for its own waste stream.

–Provide the lowest disposal cost for households and businesses.

–Receive waste from our schools, the housing authority and other City operations at no cost to the taxpayer.

–Contribute approximately $750,000 per year to the general fund and generate additional income to support recycling options and programs.

A “No” vote to Close the Landfill will:

–Cause a decrease in traffic, odor and dust for landfill neighbors.

–Allay the concerns of some citizens about possible environmental risks (although multiple state and independent studies have shown there is no new environmental risk).

–Cause a reduction in financial risk associated with any large public works project.

–End the concern of some citizens about possible health risks associated with living near an active landfill (Although multiple state and independent studies have shown there is no health risk).

Through this ballot question the City Council seeks input from the electorate on whether to pursue expansion of the City’s landfill. The vote on this question will be advisory only and will not require the City Council to take any particular course of action.

_____Yes ______No

See also:

Water Not Waste Achieves Ballot Question Signature Goal
It is official that we collected the required number of registered voter’s signatures and our question WILL be on the November 3rd ballot!

The question reads:

               “Shall the City of Northampton expand the Northampton landfill over the Barnes Aquifer?”  

“An uphill slog: Fighting the landfill expansion is not going to be easy” – Mike Kirby

Video: Special Meeting of the Board of Public Works and the City Council, 8/21/09; Landfill Ballot Question No. 2
The claim that there will be “no new environmental risk for the city” seems scientifically impossible. As noted at Zero Waste America, “even the best liner and leachate collection system will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration.” It might be plausible to claim the environmental risk from landfill expansion is small, but it’s not zero… The claim that there will be “no health risk” seems similarly aggressive. Some humility in the face of past experience is warranted. Waste disposal practices that were acceptable less than 50 years are now restricted as harmful. The long-term impacts of many substances are still not fully known.

Video: Landfill Options – Public Information Meeting of 8/17/09

Gazette: “Landfill study eyed in detail at local forum” (8/17/09)

Download the Solid Waste Management Alternatives Study (PDF, 2.7MB)

Department of Public Works: Landfill Documents

Northampton Solid Waste Alternatives Google Group

Key Portions of the Solid Waste Management Alternatives Study
A critical element missing from the study is an estimate of the value of Barnes Aquifer water at risk from contamination due to landfill expansion. Neither the words “Barnes” nor “Aquifer” appear anywhere in the study.

Video and Slides: Public Forum on Innovative Approaches to Manage Northampton’s Solid Waste, 11/19/08

Valley Advocate: “Trash is Good” (10/9/08)
In the landfill business, trash is good. Currently Northampton’s Solid Waste Enterprise Fund relies on 45,000 to 50,000 tons per year in order to meet budget. If Pioneer Valley residents significantly reduce what they throw away, the city may move to expand the landfill’s “wasteshed”–that is, to entice tonnage from other areas. If another regional facility offers haulers a cheaper alternative, this strategy may fail. Duseau Trucking has a permit to operate a transfer station in North Hatfield, with rail access. If, for instance, Duseau were able to ship our region’s trash to another facility at a lower cost, it is possible that the Northampton municipal landfill would end up cash-starved…

Video: Department of Public Health Presents Landfill Study

Gazette: “DPH study finds no cancer link to landfill” (9/24/08)
It is “unlikely” that living in proximity to the city’s landfill at any time over the past 23 years has played a “major role” in cancers among residents, a state report has concluded.

The evaluation, conducted by the Department of Public Health, used similar methods and reached similar conclusions to a study commissioned by the city, which was released in late July.

The state study, requested by city officials 16 months ago, comes as the city contemplates expanding its landfill to give it another 20 years of life…

Dr. Richard Clapp, a founder of the state’s cancer registry who now works for Boston University’s School of Public Health, cautioned residents and researchers alike Wednesday not to chalk all cancer incidences up to statistical variance…

“I would argue in favor of giving the public the data and letting them make a judgment,” he said.