Published DateTo the editor,
As a concerned Belmont resident I read with interest Town Planner Candace Daigle's letter of March 7 concerning the proposed zoning ordinance amendment to permit Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Transfer Stations in the Belmont Industrial Zone. Bestway Disposal proposed this amendment when they inquired about adding a transfer station to the recycling center on Rt. 140.
Voters should know that in Dec. 2012 Bestway and Waste Management (Blow Brothers, ME) were bought by regional solid waste company Casella Waste Systems, Rutland, VT. Casella has long history of bad faith negotiations with multiple ME, VT, NH, MA, and NY towns since the early 1990's. Towns are often force-choiced into working with Casella as there are few waste businesses from which to choose. Casella's typical business strategy is to enter a community, expand dramatically and fight local municipalities who try to control operations and expansion.
According to Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover), in 1999 Casella "squeezed out smaller, independent businesses" in Sanbornton, forcing the town to award them a garbage-hauling contract; then "the town's disposal costs went up from $43 to $60 a ton."
In 2006, Holliston, MA fought with Casella for years over noise, litter, odor, and lack of screening for radioactive waste at its MSW transfer station. The transfer station is near wetlands and the aquifer. Despite Board of Health threats of fines and citations, Casella did not comply. In 2007 Covanta purchased the controversial station, cleaned it up, mended relationships with the town and after several years a screening process for radioactive material was finally put into place. Not until 2012 was the Covanta-run transfer finally declared in compliance.
In Biddeford, ME, the Casella landfill was allowed to accept only Maine waste. Casella lobbyists then created a loophole: out-of-state waste processed by their Maine biofuels center became eligible as Maine waste. In 2010, over 180,000 tons of out-of-state waste ded up in the Biddeford landfill. The former Biddeford mayor writes, "I certainly wouldn't consider Casella a good corporate citizen. They wait to get caught, then argue that it's not a problem. Only as a last resort and after constant, constant fighting will they even attempt to correct a problem."
Toxic Actions Inc, a Boston environmental watch dog operation, has often named Casella one of its annual Top Dirty Dozen polluters; the last year was 2012.
Much of the Belmont industrial zone is over our aquifer, the water source for our town and surrounding towns as well.
Some towns seem to do well with Casella. Casella appears to have a better record with transfer stations than with recycling centers and landfills. As Ms. Daigle writes, communities with transfer stations may enjoy a reduction in costs of waste disposal or other benefits.
Laconia is currently working with Casella to figure out cost effective recycling options. During negotiations City Councilor Henry Lipman remarked: "There are no savings. You're not presenting a solution. You're just presenting more revenue for you."
Last month, Lewiston, ME entered into a long-term recycling center agreement with Casella after much gnashing of teeth. Economic considerations underlied the final decision. In response, a resident of Biddeford, whose town experienced a long relationship with Casella, warned Lewiston and other towns to be extremely cautious when entering into long-term Casella contracts. His final statement: "Protect your citizenry with iron-clad termination clauses."
I hope Belmont voters, town officials and staff will consider this information. It may not be wise to change zoning ordinances to permit Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Transfer Stations in the Industrial Zone without first making further study of both short and long-term ramifications.