Bristol ready for next steps in trash, recycling

BRISTOL — After receiving notice from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources last August that the Bristol town landfill was in violation of some state rules, town officials scrambled to plan for the dump’s closure, figured how to pay for that process and set up a new regimen for residents to dispose of their trash and recycling.
As of this week the funds have been raised, the process is in place and townspeople will be able this weekend to begin taking their disposables to the former landfill site to a trash hauler who will take them to a certified landfill or transfer station.
Town Administrator Therese Kirby said this week that the money to close the landfill was the first big hurdle. Initially it looked like that would cost $1.5 million.  But since March town meeting, when voters first faced coming up with that originally sum of money, the cost of closing the landfill has been cut almost in half.
Civil engineers at Green Mountain Engineering analyzed the site and advised that closing sooner would cut costs considerably. Bristol resident and Omya employee Michael Laurent told the town about a byproduct from Omya’s quarrying operation that is suitable for covering landfills, and Omya agreed to provide that material for free. And when Bristol officials contracted with Casella Construction of Mendon to do the work of capping the landfill, the town gained additional savings because of agreements already existing between Omya and Casella.
As the costs came down, the town’s fund for closing the landfill grew modestly from $576,000 in March to its current $636,000.
Additionally, toward the end of the 2015 legislative session, the Shumlin administration pledged up to $180,000 to help Bristol close its landfill, in exchange for Bristol nixing a plan to raise funds by bringing in commercial waste from elsewhere. So if all goes as planned and pledged, Bristol residents should face no additional costs beyond what the town has already set aside.
Kirby stressed that the Shumlin administration’s pledge is just that, a pledge, and that town officials and state representatives will work diligently to make sure that legislators in 2016 vote a budget that turns the administration’s 2015 promise to Bristol into real dollars and cents.
Now that the dump is closed, the site will be used as a point where town residents can drop off trash and recycling to a hauler for a fee.
On July 20, the Bristol selectboard awarded the drop-off contract to R&L Rubbish of Middlebury, which already runs similar drop-off operations for Cornwall and Addison. R&L trucks will be at the old landfill site Saturdays, 8 a.m.–noon, to collect trash and recycling beginning Aug. 8.
“We hired the low bidder who had experience doing municipalities,” Kirby said.
Richard Rheaume, R&L co-owner, will be on hand the first several Saturdays to help make the transition as smooth as possible, to offer help, and to answer questions. R&L will also accept batteries, fluorescent bulbs and some metal appliances at the Bristol drop-off.
Act 148 compliance
Some Bristol residents are already raising questions about R&L’s $2 per bag fee for residential recycling that is unaccompanied by trash and how this squares with the state’s Universal Recycling Law, Act 148, which passed in 2012.
The matter is complicated enough that ANR has been issuing clarifications and fine-tuning regulations as the different phases of Act 148 have gone into effect. Citizens seeking clarity from ANR’s website alone will face a sea of seemingly contradictory information.
Key is understanding that Bristol’s drop-off center and others like it are governed by Act 148 regulations concerning “haulers,” not the stricter regulations for ANR-certified “facilities.” Celia Riechel, of ANR’s Waste Management & Prevention Division tried to clarify the legal distinctions in an email to the Independent this week:
“When a resident brings only recyclables, without trash, to a hauler-operated drop-off — also known as a ‘fast trash’ or ‘Mobile Solid Waste Collection Operation’ — a nominal fee can be charged.”
Riechel directed citizens with questions about recycling or Act 148 compliance to the ANR’s Recycling Resimplified campaign at www.vtrecycles.com, to the wealth of Act 148 fact sheets found at www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/wastediv/solid/Act148.htm, and to state Waste Management offices at 802-828-1138.
“The key thing to remember here is that Act 148 is meant to encourage recycling,” noted Teri Kuczynski, district manager for the Addison County Solid Waste Management District. “Putting haulers out of business because they could not provide the service for free would not be helpful. Customers could pour in with recyclables only, and the hauler would be out of business within a few days.
“We all share the common goal of Act 148,” continued Kuczynski, “which is to encourage and create an incentive for more diversion of waste through recycling, reuse, composting, etc. But it’s one thing to adopt a law and another to implement it. Since Act 148 was adopted, we have all been struggling with how to implement it and trying to determine how the Agency of Natural Resources would interpret the law.”
Kuczynski explained that since January the commodities market for recyclables has taken a nosedive. Whereas previously a regional facility such as ACSWMD’s transfer station in Middlebury would have been able to sell its recyclables to a larger facility, such as Casella in Rutland, now ACSWMD must pay to have those same recyclables accepted. Those same costs and shifts in the market affect smaller haulers, like R&L Rubbish, which must pay ACSWMD to accept recycling from the towns it services.
Bristol officials have also notified residents that they can instead elect to have trash and recyclables picked up curbside. Anyone interested in this option can get a list of licensed haulers from ACSWMD at 388-2333 or online to www.addisoncountyrecycles.org/articles/list-of-licensed-haulers.
The Bristol selectboard on July 6 voted for the town to join the Addison County Solid Waste Management District. This allows Bristol’s trash to be hauled to ACSWMD’s Middlebury transfer station and for Bristol residents to take hazardous waste and other materials not accepted at the Bristol drop-off site (such as appliances that contain Freon), directly to Middlebury. Kirby stressed that individuals can’t drop off their own household trash or recyclables at the ACSWMD transfer station. The agreement between Bristol and ACSWMD, currently binding through January 2016, must still be ratified by Bristol voters.
The formal vote on joining ACSWMD will take place Tuesday, Aug. 25, at Holley Hall, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
Bristol residents with questions about the upcoming vote or about the closing of the town landfill are encouraged to attend either of the upcoming Bristol selectboard meetings (6 p.m. on Aug. 10 and 24 at the town offices), to call the town offices at 453-2410, or to go to the town website at www.bristolvt.org.
Future of landfill site
Right now the town’s attention is, understandably, focused on facilitating a smooth transition at the new ways for town residents to handle trash and on the detailed logistics of closing and covering the landfill itself and making sure that state-level financing comes through as pledged.
But what then?
While Kirby expects the landfill to be closed and covered by the end of November, the many steps the state requires to monitor and report on a landfill site post-closure can take as long as 10 to 20 years. But already different local entities are envisaging a new future for the site. One local recreation club has approached the town about converting the reclaimed landfill to mountain biking trails, and at least three companies have expressed interest in using the site to set up solar arrays.
Town Administrator Kirby is glad to see the cost of the landfill closing to fall into line so successfully.
“For us to go from looking down the barrel of $1.5 million (estimate to close the landfill) to looking at possibly only a $111,000 shortfall to close the landfill — wow,” she said.

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