Bristol to close its landfill and vote on re-joining solid waste district

BRISTOL — After Aug. 1, Bristol will take the first steps toward burying its municipal landfill, a move that will require local residents to either contract with a hauler to pick up their household waste and recyclables, or bring those materials themselves to a new drop-off center on the landfill property.
This trash transition also calls for Bristol to re-join the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD), which currently represents the refuse and recycling interests of 19 Addison County towns. Bristol withdrew from the ACSWMD around 20 years ago when the community decided to keep its unlined landfill open and plot its own solid waste future. The issue of re-joining the ACSWMD will be put to a town-wide vote near the end of this summer, according to Bristol town Administrator Therese Kirby.
Bristol and Salisbury currently operate the only two unlined landfills in the state. Bristol has faced pressure from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources in recent years to close its landfill for a variety of reasons, including failure to maintain an adequate landfill closure fund and failure to maintain daily cover over waste in some areas. The ANR’s Department of Environmental Conservation Waste & Management Division flagged those infractions as part of an Aug. 1, 2014, notice of violation that it sent to the town.
“The selectboard started looking into (the violations) and the finances,” Kirby said. “They came to a point where they said they were not sure the landfill would be able to stay open.”
A Bristol landfill update published in the town’s annual report this past March revealed the town had saved roughly $576,000 toward an estimated closure cost of around $1.5 million. The main reason for that shortfall, according to Kirby: Bristol residents are really good at recycling. The landfill’s certification allows it to receive up to 1,000 tons per year, but the facility has been taking in an average of only 330 tons annually.
By contrast, Bristol residents in 2014 generated approximately 218 tons of recyclables. Provisions of Act 148, the state’s Universal Recycling Law, are expected to further reduce the amount of trash generated by households and businesses (See story, Page 1).
“Recycling (20 years ago) isn’t what it is now,” Kirby said of the heightened environmental awareness.
In an effort to avoid foisting a landfill closure bond on local taxpayers, Bristol officials and the community’s two House members requested some financial aid through the state budget. The state used to maintain a fund to help towns close their unlined landfills, but that fund dried up after the Legislature most recently gave Shaftsbury $350,000 to close its facility. They also sought support for a bill that would have allowed the Bristol landfill to accept thousands of tons of outside waste in the short term in an effort to ramp up revenues for the closure fund. The ANR frowned on the prospect of the Bristol landfill potentially taking in large amounts of commercial waste.
But recent months have seen some new, positive developments in Bristol’s effort to close its landfill without taking on a massive financial burden.
Kirby noted that the Shumlin administration has offered up to $180,000 in the state’s 2016 capital budget to help cover closure expenses. In order to qualify for the money, Bristol has agreed not to bring in any additional trash beyond the 1,000 tons it is permitted to receive on an annual basis.
“This is a one-shot deal and it can’t tie any future administration’s hands,” Kirby qualified.
Bristol has also entered into an agreement with Casella Construction to cover and cap the landfill for $720,000 — less than half of what had previously been estimated. Kirby said a major reason for the reduced price is that Casella will be able to use, as landfill cover, a calcium carbonate byproduct provided through Omya. The Omya product 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. It will also come a lot cheaper than clay, which is often used to cap landfills.
Plans call for Casella to begin closure work at the Bristol landfill soon after the facility’s last day of operation, Saturday, Aug. 1. Kirby anticipates that process will be completed by late October or early November.
“Casella has been wonderful to Bristol,” Kirby said, noting some complimentary work and reasonable pricing the company has offered. She also gave kudos to Addison-4 Reps. Fred Baser, R-Bristol, and Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol.
It’s too early to tell what the town might do with the landfill property once it is capped and seeded. But Kirby has received inquiries from at least three solar power companies that have expressed an interest in setting up arrays on the land.
In the meantime, Bristol residents will have to get used to not having a local landfill for the first time since around 1926, according to some of the community’s old-timers. Landfill workers this past Saturday, June 27, began passing out fliers to users explaining the upcoming transition to a local drop-off center. That information includes:
• The Bristol selectboard on July 20 is expected to approve a company to manage the town’s drop-off center at the landfill property.
• After Aug. 1, residents will be expected to bring their household trash and recyclables to the drop-off center (on Saturdays), or hire a hauler that has been licensed by the ACSWMD. A list of licensed haulers can be found at www.addisoncountyrecycles.org.
Residents will pay a per-bag fee for trash to the center operator. That fee has yet to be determined, but Kirby believes residents might be pleasantly surprised. She has heard of some area drop-off centers charging as little as $2.50 per bag, which would be significantly less than the $3.50-per-bag charge at Bristol. Bristol’s fee has reflected the costs of operating the landfill and local recycling program.
“It’s a competitive market,” Kirby said. “We think it’s going to be an overall better deal for residents.”
Per Act 148, all facilities that accept trash from residents can’t charge a separate fee for recyclables, regardless of whether the residents bring in trash with the recyclables. They can’t charge a separate fee for business self-hauled recyclables if they are dropped off with trash, but if the business is only self-hauling recyclables, they can charge for it.
All of that material will make its way to the ACSWMD transfer station off Route 7 South in Middlebury.
• Any recyclables not accepted by a licensed hauler or at the drop-off center — items such as appliances, fire extinguishers, tires and residential/business hazardous waste — will have to be taken by the consumer to the ACSWMD transfer station. Kirby stressed that residents are not allowed to bring their own household trash and recyclables to the Middlebury transfer station.
A complete list of items accepted at the ACSWMD transfer station and the associated fees can be found on the district’s website, www.addisoncountyrecycles.org.
Teresa Kuczynski, ACSWMD manager, said she and her colleagues are ready to welcome the town of Bristol back into the district fold. The district’s board of supervisors has drafted a proposed agreement for the town and has determined there would be no admission fee for Bristol to join the ACSWMD.
“The district would welcome Bristol as a member,” ACSWMD board Chairman Tim Wickland said. “The choice is now up to the voters of the town.”
Bristol voters will face two ACSWMD-related referenda when they go to the polls for a vote in late August or early September. They will be asked to approve a services agreement between Bristol and the district, and a separate question on whether to join the ACSWMD, according to Kirby.
Following a positive vote, the town would complete its pre-admission requirements and confirm closure of the Bristol landfill. The ACSWMD board would then vote on a resolution to accept Bristol as a member of the district.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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