Video Highlights: BPW on the Dam, Landfill

Here are two YouTube segments from the 6/29/10 meeting of Northampton’s Board of Public Works. These videos were recorded by Adam Cohen.

In this first 7-minute segment, Ward 7 City Councilor Gene Tacy urges the Board to support hydropower generation on the Mill River system. A network of hydro stations at several dams could collectively generate hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of green electricity per year, and the Upper Roberts Meadow dam and reservoir could be preserved. John Clapp and Dee Boyle-Clapp of Save Our Dam then debate with Board Chair Terry Culhane about whether the friends of the dam are making the progress the Board wants to see.

In this second 10-minute segment, the Board discusses what they plan to say at the July 1 City Council Public Hearing on a proposed Drinking Water Protection Ordinance. This hearing will take place on Thursday at 7pm at the JFK Middle School Community Room, 100 Bridge Road. The ordinance would forbid new landfills or the expansion of existing landfills in Water Supply Protection Districts. It would have the effect of halting an expansion of the Northampton municipal landfill off Glendale Road.

The Board believes if the landfill could expand it would be worth $8 million or perhaps more to a private company. They acknowledge, however, that some of this foregone revenue could be made up from another use of the land, such as a site for solar power generation. Not discussed at the meeting were the risk of landfill expansion to the Barnes aquifer, nor the risk to the health of nearby residents.

See also:

July 1: City Council Public Hearing – Drinking Water Protection Ordinance
The text of the proposed ordinance:

“No new landfills or open dumps as defined in 310 CMR 19 as amended, or expansions of existing facilities or new landfill cells, shall be allowed over aquifers, or in the Zone II protection area of an aquifer, or any area zoned as a Water Supply Protection District.”

  • All Water Supply Protection Districts in Massachusetts ban landfills because they have the highest contaminant threat to the water supply.
  • In November 2009, over 60% of Northampton voters said NO to expanding the landfill over the Barnes Aquifer. The Drinking Water Protection Ordinance will fulfill that mandate.
  • This is an opportunity for Northampton to develop environmentally responsible and affordable programs to manage our solid waste and to seek alternative green energy uses for the closed landfill site with the potential to generate revenue. 

Gazette: “Advocates dig in to save Northampton dam” (6/30/10)
The Clapps say that they have support from a cross-section of residents, as well as from legislators and grant-issuing organizations. Nearly all of those supporters, however, have indicated they would like to see restoration plans backed by the BPW before they’ll move forward, said Boyle-Clapp.

The board remained skeptical that the Friends can raise the money. Chairman Terry Culhane noted that the group has had a year to raise the money and hasn’t done it. In a testy exchange, he countered a contention from John Clapp that the Friends had met its financial obligations, as discussed at a meeting earlier this year with Mayor Clare Higgins.

Northampton Media: “Methane operator owes $265,000 in unpaid fees, city claims” (6/29/10)
The city built a new methane flare to burn off excess methane at the Glendale Road landfill. For Ameresco, Huntley said, a key obstacle to the “milestone payments” is the presence of siloxanes, formed by the decomposition of detergents and soaps, which can damage machinery if not removed before burning.

“They claim these are in the gas and that it doesn’t meet their standards,” Huntley said. Nonetheless, he added, the company burns the siloxanes along with the methane.

Gazette: “Cost for city-bought house near Northampton landfill cut again” (6/16/10)
After twice failing to sell a “stigmatized” home it bought near the Glendale Road landfill last year, the city has dropped the price to a level that might turn out to be a bargain for a prospective home-buyer.

For the second time in the last year, the Board of Public Works has significantly lowered the minimum price for the 981 Park Hill Road home, this time to $290,000. That’s some $255,000 less than what the city bought it for last year in order to settle legal action over the soon-to-close landfill and $137,000 below its appraised value…

The sale of both properties includes a condition prohibiting future owners from suing the city as well as a company that operates a gas-to-energy plant at the landfill for issues that arise as a result of landfill operations or expansion.

Video: Board of Public Works Not Keen to Save Chesterfield Road Dam (6/12/10)

Northampton Media: “Dueling Engineers: Can Micro-Hydro Save the Dam?”  (5/15/10)

The Friends of the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir and Chesterfield Road Dam Want Your Help (11/2/09)

Valley Advocate: “Northampton’s Hidden Reservoir” (9/3/09)

Video: Conservation Commission Meeting of 9/10/09; Kohl Condos Approved; Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir  

Video: Board of Public Works Meeting of 7/29/09; Roberts Meadow Upper Reservoir Dam; Landfill Alternatives

Video: Hilltown Solid Waste Forum, May 19, 2010

Northampton Media: Planning Board Splits 3-3 on Prohibiting Landfills from Water Supply Protection Districts (3/28/10)
An initial vote had members Baker, Sullivan and Johnston in support of recommending the amendment to the Ordinance Committee, with Richards, Kohout and Gilson in opposition. In light of the tied vote, a second motion to advance the zone change with no recommendation passed unanimously.

“It was wrong of the DEP to grant the waiver,” said Johnston, who called the final vote to advance with no recommendation “pathetic”.

Toxics Action Center Issues Press Release in Conjunction with Water Not Waste (3/25/10)

Northampton Media: “Council passes solid waste resolution, 5-3-1 (3/18/10)
With five yeses, three abstentions, and a single no vote, City Council passed a resolution on Thursday that “advises the Board of Public Works to terminate further action on the landfill expansion in order to begin planning for both the scheduled closure of the existing Glendale Road facility and for how Northampton will manage its solid waste when our landfill closes.”

Rebuttal to Dr. Geoffrey Kuter’s Brief for Landfill Expansion (1/26/10)

Barnes Aquifer Protection Advisory Committee: “Why Aquifers and Landfills Don’t Mix” (10/27/09)

Video: Mayoral Debate, 10/27/09; Landfill Risks; Costs of Alternatives to Landfill Expansion

Video: City Council Meeting of 10/15/09; Odgers Challenges Accuracy of Mayor’s Campaign Website
[Mimi Odgers:] “[On] the mayor’s website, in her issues column, it states about the landfill expansion… ‘We have studied the air and ground water issues and found there to be no risk.’ This is also a problem I have because at the recent debate…the panel person also stated that there’s no risks for the expansion…

“The Massachusetts Department of Public Health stated…from July 9th of 2009, that they cannot currently conclude whether breathing outdoor air in the neighborhoods surrounding the Northampton sanitary landfill could result in health effects. ‘The information we need to make a decision is not available. We are working with the City of Northampton and [the] Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to gather the needed information.’

Paradise City Forum: Landfill and Aquifer