January 27: Landfill Expansion on Board of Public Works Agenda

We urge concerned citizens to attend this meeting:

The Board of Public Works [blog] is holding its regular public meeting on Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 5:30 p.m. at the Community Room located in the JFK Middle School on Bridge Road. On the Board’s agenda for this meeting is the discussion of a motion whether or not to move the landfill expansion to the next level of local permitting. The public is welcome to attend this meeting and all regularly scheduled Board meetings. The Board meets the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at the Department of Public Works office located at 125 Locust Street.

See also:

Water Not Waste Press Release: “Northampton BPW Plans to Move Forward with Landfill Expansion Vote”  (1/13/10)
The Northampton Board of Public Works will be voting on an application for the Northampton Regional Landfill to expand in a Water Supply Protection District. This will be an historic vote because all Water Supply Protection Districts in the state of Massachusetts ban landfills. It is a critical decision that will have significant impacts on residents of the City of Northampton for decades to come. It is even more important to understand the financial risks now that a private company, Volume Reduction Associates, is planning a state of the art transfer station in Northampton with the goal to greatly reduce the amount of trash that needs disposal.

Gazette: “‘Historic’ vote nears on Northampton landfill expansion” (1/13/10)

Northampton Media: “BPW Poised to Vote on Landfill Expansion” (1/13/10)
Odgers single-handedly tripped up the BPW’s attempt to vote on the permit application at its January 6 meeting, when she pointed out to the body that no mention of the vote was contained on the BPW’s agenda…

Video: Board of Public Works, 1/6/10 Meeting

Video: Trash Sticker Fee Hearing, 12/21/09

Northampton Media: “BPW Takes Emergency Measures to Retire Landfill Debt” (12/6/09)

Video: Mayoral Debate, 10/27/09; Landfill Risks; Costs of Alternatives to Landfill Expansion
…Mayor Higgins says (emphasis added), “We could close the landfill, create a transfer station where people could bring their recyclables and their trash, and it would be picked up and taken to some other landfill. Currently, it would go to one of the three remaining landfills in Western Mass if we close–Chicopee, South Hadley, Granby–and once those close it would probably end up being trucked out of state or on a train out of state, or out of the region, including as far away as the Midwest. And the cost, that would probably double, up to about $120 per ton…”

It’s not clear to us how Mayor Higgins estimates such dramatically higher costs for out-of-state waste disposal. Here is page 30 from Stantec/HDR’s 8/17/09 Landfill Alternatives Study presentation (630KB, PDF). It shows how Northampton’s current $68.07/ton average net tip fee for commercial customers compares to some out-of-state disposal options:

It would seem that Northampton could ship its trash today to Seneca Meadows – Seneca Falls, NY for a cost that’s comparable to the fee the Northampton landfill currently charges its commercial customers. Indeed, the capacity of landfills in New York and Pennsylvania to receive our waste might even increase over the next 20 years, as the Solid Waste Management Alternatives Study (PDF, 2.7MB) notes…

Barnes Aquifer Protection Advisory Committee: “Why Aquifers and Landfills Don’t Mix”

Water Not Waste: Mayoral Debate on WGGB channel 40 (10/20/09)

Video: Special Meeting of the Board of Public Works and the City Council, 8/21/09; Landfill Ballot Question No. 2
Northampton’s 34% recycling rate lags that of many nearby communities. By operating a landfill, the city has an incentive to tip more tons of waste, not reduce them… 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.