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Salisbury considers closing state’s last unlined landfill

SALISBURY — The Salisbury selectboard will spend the coming months discussing the possibility of closing the municipal landfill in the near future and joining the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD).
Salisbury Selectman Tom Scanlon said he and his colleagues have been carefully reviewing the pros and cons of closing the community’s landfill, the only unlined facility still open in the state.
“With each passing year, we get closer to the time when our landfill will have to close anyway,” said Salisbury selectboard Chairwoman Martha Sullivan. “Residents always seem to say they want to keep it open as long as possible. But I’m not sure how much longer we can keep on doing that.”
Until August, Addison County was home to two unlined landfills. That month Bristol closed its landfill and is now in the process of capping that facility. A private hauler now receives, and takes away, trash and recyclables that Bristol residents take to a new transfer station that has been established at the town landfill site.
Both Salisbury and Bristol chose to keep their respective unlined landfills open through a state-authorized exemption for facilities that took in less than 1,000 tons of trash annually. Those landfills have also faced rigorous monitoring and strict recertification standards imposed by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
Sullivan and Scanlon reasoned that state rules governing the Salisbury landfill will only become more rigorous in the coming years. For example, Vermont’s Act 148 calls for an increase in the number of household hazardous waste collection days that must be offered in the state’s trash districts. Salisbury currently holds two such days per year at its landfill. Each event costs around $6,000 to stage, according to Scanlon. He noted current state regulations call for trash districts to ratchet up the number of household hazardous waste collection events by one each year, up to a total of six. That would amount to a $36,000 annual expense in Salisbury for an event that doesn’t draw huge numbers of residents, according to Scanlon.
Closing the local landfill is one of the actions Salisbury would have to take prior to becoming eligible to join the ACSWMD. District Manager Teresa Kuczynski explained the ACSWMD does not want to assume liability for any municipal landfills.
“That was the main issue with Bristol (joining),” Kuczynski said. Bristol residents this past summer overwhelmingly endorsed two separate referenda that led to the town joining the district. The ACSWMD provides solid waste and recycling information and services to its member Addison County towns. The district also operates a major transfer station off Route 7 South in Middlebury.
Sullivan noted that the ACSWMD currently does not charge an admission fee for new members. The district used to charge such a fee, which provided a financial disincentive for Salisbury.
Under the ACSWMD’s umbrella, Salisbury could benefit from the solid waste programs, insights and representation the district offers its member towns, Sullivan said. The town might find it tough and expensive to get and process that information on its own, officials said.
The Salisbury landfill is up for recertification this year, according to Scanlon. Otter Creek Engineering has submitted related paperwork to ANR officials, he said.
The town received an estimate three years ago that its landfill had around 10 more years of capacity, according to Scanlon.
While having a local landfill has been convenient for residents, it could become a real liability, some Salisbury officials believe. Regular testing at the landfill site could at some point reveal pollutants leaching into neighboring land and/or a nearby brook, Scanlon noted.
“I would rather close it sooner rather than later to negate any future problems,” Scanlon said of the landfill, which has not been operating in the black given the testing requirements, salaries and other related expenses.
Still, officials acknowledged that residents might not be in a hurry to close their landfill, which has doubled as a social hub for citizens while taking care of their rubbish and recycling.
“I think we will have some selling to do (to residents),” Scanlon said.
One possible sales tactic could be for the town to offer underwriting recycling expenses (around $1,400 annually) at the future Salisbury transfer station. This, Scanlon reasoned, would allow the future trash contractor to offer a low per-bag rubbish fee to local customers.
Kuczynski said Salisbury, like Bristol, would need to field (and pass) two votes to become a member of the ACSWMD. The first vote would be on a proposed agreement between Salisbury and the trash district; the second would be to join the district.
Scanlon likes the idea of using the annual town meeting next March to have a thorough discussion about the future of its landfill and joining the ACSWMD, of having that discussion beforehand and holding the necessary votes on Town Meeting Day 2016.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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