Salisbury’s town landfill on healthy financial footing

SALISBURY — While Bristol is facing pressure from state officials to close its municipal dump as soon as next year and quickly come up with the estimated $1.5 million to do so, Salisbury — home to the only other unlined landfill still operating in Vermont — is on course to keep its facility open for another two decades and has already put away enough savings to cover closure costs.
And Salisbury recently received another batch of good news on the solid waste front. The community last week learned it will be able to receive an ample supply of free landfill cover material from Omya Inc., which means the town will not have to pay to import sand and clay to serve that purpose.
The material in question goes by the name of “Omya SPS,” which is the byproduct of the marble ore processing that takes place at Omya’s plant in Florence. That byproduct is made up of calcium carbonate and other materials. Omya SPS has high mineral content, low permeability and the ability to support vegetation, to the extent that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has cleared it for use as landfill cover, according to Salisbury Selectman Tom Scanlon.
And to make things even more convenient, Scanlon said Omya has agreed to periodically deliver the material to the Salisbury landfill, which is convenient to the route the company’s trucks take from Florence to the Omya quarry off Lower Foote Street in Middlebury. The trucks run full from the quarry down Route 7 to the plant in Florence, and empty back up Route 7 through Salisbury to the Middlebury quarry.
Scanlon explained that the town has been using sand and clay from its landfill site to provide daily cover. But that on-site material is now running out. The free Omya material is expected to fill that void and provide ample cover for when the landfill is closed. Pedie O’Brien, coordinator of the Salisbury landfill, said the landfill could remain open another 20 years.
And Salisbury residents are keen on keeping their landfill open for as long as possible, according to Scanlon. He said citizens use their visits to the landfill to catch up with neighbors, circulate petitions and campaign. It is also a location for people to drop off their recyclables and outdated electronics. The town has a contract with GoodPoint Recycling to take the community’s discarded electronics, Scanlon noted.
In the meantime, the town has contracted with an engineering firm to conduct regular studies and inspections of the landfill. Salisbury officials have also hired a financial adviser to oversee revenues generated by the facility.
“We are now in the process of doing another major report to the state on the landfill,” Scanlon said.
Salisbury residents pay $2.50 for each bag of trash they leave at their landfill. Out-of-towners can also leave trash at a rate of $4 per bag. The facility has no scales and accepts no cash; only checks, or pre-paid punch cards.
It was around two decades ago that both Salisbury and Bristol secured state permission to keep their respective unlined landfills open, thanks to a 1,000-ton exemption provision in Vermont’s environmental regulations. O’Brien said the facility takes in an average of 350 to 400 tons per year.
There was a time — before 1991 — when the Salisbury landfill was taking in a lot more than 400 tons of trash per year. Particularly during the 1980s, the Salisbury landfill took in refuse from other communities (including Middlebury). This  generated revenue that helped finance a new community school and created some reserves that the town allocated to four separate accounts. Thus the town has been able to bank closure funds. O’Brien said the cost of closing the Salisbury landfill was placed at $472,800 last year. That’s a number that needs to be tweaked each year for inflation. The landfill generated $110,346 in revenues last year, of which $62,449 was related to customer receipts, according to O’Brien. The town is also earning interest on the landfill money it has banked to date.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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