Bristol landfill might close in August

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard may have found a solution to state environmental officials’ request that the town  close its landfill by the end of 2016 due to environmental concerns.
The plan? To close, cap and cover the landfill — which is one of only two of the state’s remaining unlined landfills — by this August with financial help from a different arm of state government.
Back in April, the selectboard began looking to contract the services of Casella Construction, a Vermont company, to have the trash hauler clean up the landfill. Bristol had originally saved up approximately $600,000 for an estimated $1.5 million project to close the landfill, cover the trash and cap it off.
Then, the selectboard unanimously voted to hire Casella on May 18. This past Monday, Bristol Town Administrator Therese Kirby signed a Letter of Understanding with the company.
In the interim, the projected cost of the project has dropped to less than half of the original price — it is now set at approximately $720,000.
Officials point to a couple reasons that the costs have dropped so much. First, the town will receive materials for the decommissioning of the landfill from Omya, an industrial minerals company, pro bono, which significantly reduced the cost of the project.
What’s more, because the Bristol landfill has not been receiving much trash in recent years — it has been receiving about 330 tons of its 1,000-ton annual limit — the slope and the grade of the landfill have been reduced so that it will not require as much deconstruction material as previously thought, again saving more money.
This news is cause for optimism for Bristol officials, who had originally planned to close the landfill in 2029, but were then urged by the state to move that deadline back 13 years.  Also, back in January the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) objected to the idea of Bristol hiring Casella to bring extra trash (and extra revenues) to the landfill because it would have required the landfill to exceed its 1,000 ton-per-year limit in order to close it.
To make matters worse, the state could not offer any funding to the town for the project; in the past decade, the state used up its funds for closing landfills.
Raising funds to close the landfill has not been an easy task for Bristol. The DEC reported that Bristol would have to raise approximately $61,000 every year in order to fund the project. However, in 2013 the town saved only about $16,000, the selectboard reported.
But things have been looking up for the town of Bristol. Vermont’s Agency of Administration has offered Bristol up to $180,000 in State Capital Funds — if Bristol promises not to exceed the landfill’s annual input cap.
But the AoA’s language is making the Bristol selectboard nervous. The Memorandum of Agreement between Bristol officials and the state reads, “The Vermont Agency of Administration will include up to $180,000 in State Capital Funds in its proposal to the Legislature for the Capital Bill adjustment that will be considered during the 2016 session.”
“We had asked them to include the language ‘and every session thereafter until approved,’ but the state said they could not tie the hands of future administrations, so we have one shot at getting this money approved by the Legislature,” Kirby said.
If the Bristol selectboard cannot secure sufficient funding to close and cap the landfill, it may have to ask its residents to approve a bond to cover the cost, selectboard Chairman Joel Bouvier said in a meeting late last year.
All in all, the Bristol selectboard seems to have things under control now, with the estimated costs of closure down, the Casella on board and a plan in place. Additionally, Omya’s materials have been approved by the Agency of Natural Resources.
According to the agreement, Casella will be loading up quiet, natural gas-powered trucks at night and will arrive in Bristol between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. in order to reduce noise pollution, using Liberty Street as their main route.
The Bristol selectboard will be working with the Addison County Solid Waste Management District to draw up a more specific date for the landfill’s closing. In the meantime, Bristol residents may bring their recycling and trash to a site adjacent to landfill, and will be able to contract a private hauler to pick up trash at their homes.
Bristol landfill manager Merle Knight late last week told town officials that he was resigning effective June 26. He did not return calls from the Independent, but said in a message to Bristol residents that it was a very difficult decision and thanked his co-workers and the community.

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