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NEWBURYPORT

DEP is told to take over at landfill

Crow Lane owners are faulted for delays

This ‘tells you the evidence was there that this has been a very long, protracted, difficult process,’ said Mayor Donna D.Holaday. This ‘tells you the evidence was there that this has been a very long, protracted, difficult process,’ said Mayor Donna D.Holaday.
By Katheleen Conti
Globe Staff / April 4, 2010

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A Suffolk Superior Court judge issued an order on Friday allowing the Department of Environmental Protection immediate access to the Crow Lane Landfill and to take over closing the site.

In addition, Judge John C. Cratsley found the landfill’s owner, New Ventures Associates, LCC, had defaulted on the settlement reached with the state last year to address problems at the Newburyport landfill.

“I declare and so find that the defendant has violated its ‘post-closure maintenance obligations’ and ‘otherwise failed to cure any corrective action, closure or post-closure related condition,’ ’’ Cratsley wrote in his decision.

The state attorney general’s office on March 25 filed an emergency motion requesting immediate access to the landfill to perform repairs to at least 1 1/2 acres of the flexible membrane liner cap, which was damaged during the February windstorms.

Ronald Klodenski, who has lived near the site for 25 years, said the ruling is good news for residents because it will finally help control the hydrogen sulfide levels emitted from the landfill. He said that while the long legal process had left him jaded, he is “quite happy that it’s happening. It allows the DEP to perform emergency repairs. I’m happy to see the DEP take this over. It’s been a continuous problem with the delays.’’

The court decision marks the latest in about six years of litigation among New Ventures and its owner, William Thibeault, the city, and the state regarding numerous environmental and public health violations, including the landfill’s emission of hydrogen sulfide, a gas with a strong rotten-egg odor. Thibeault did not return calls for comment. New Ventures attorney Richard Nylen could not be reached for comment Friday.

“It’s probably the most frustrating thing I’ve ever had to deal with,’’ said City Councilor Brian P. Derrivan, who represents Ward 5, where the landfill is located. “This operator has pretty much done anything he wants. . . . The folks in that area have suffered long enough.’’

The decision allows the Department of Environmental Protection to use the funds the company was obligated to set aside as assurance it could afford to perform the closure and the subsequent maintenance.

“I’m very happy,’’ Mayor Donna D. Holaday said. Cratsley’s decision “tells you the evidence was there, that this has been a very long, protracted, difficult process, and that the attorney general and the DEP provided sufficient information.’’

In the settlement reached with the state last year, New Ventures was required to cap the entire landfill with a flexible membrane liner by Nov. 27, 2009; cap it with a sand and vegetation cover by May 30, 2010; and install storm water controls by June 14, 2010.

At the time, New Ventures agreed to establish a standby trust account to finance all the work required by the state. The company paid $2,975,000 into that account. In its current motion, the state contended that New Ventures underfunded the account based on the company’s own landfill closure and maintenance estimates from 2006, which put those costs at $4,478,400.

As of March 25, the balance on that account was $2,734,886. Last September, two months before the capping deadline, New Ventures informed the state it did not have the funds to complete the work, which would have left the landfill exposed over the winter months, increasing the likelihood that hydrogen sulfide would continue to be released.

State officials were forced to tap into the trust to pay vendors to install the liner cap, gas extraction wells, and create a storm water control basin. The work was completed in December.

But the Feb. 26 windstorm damaged the gas extraction wells and about 1 1/2 acres of the liner cap.

According to the court motion, New Ventures made temporary fixes the day the damage was discovered, but has done no permanent repairs. As a result, the Department of Environmental Protection sent New Ventures notices on March 3 and March 5 stating it would exercise its authority under the agreement to use funds from the trust and to access the landfill to perform the necessary repairs.

In a letter dated March 5, New Ventures denied the state agency access to the site, and said it had requested a timetable from the cap’s installer to schedule a repair. The Department of Environmental Protection responded by letter March 10, notifying New Ventures it also had to replace the damaged gas extraction wells “without delay.’’

“As of the date of this motion, New Ventures has not replaced or repaired the missing and damaged [liner cap] and has taken no action to replace or repair the damaged gas wells,’’ states the March 25 motion signed by Assistant Attorney General Matthew C. Ireland.

“All of the requested relief is in the public interest because it addresses and remedies a threat to the public health and welfare.’’

“I talked to people who live near there and they said it’s about time. They’ve been through hell,’’ said City Council president Thomas F. O’Brien. “I’ve gone down there and the smell is unbearable. . . . We just want it to end.’’

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com.

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