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Bristol landfill capped, landscape is restored

BRISTOL — “It was a dump and now it’s beautiful,” said Bristol Town Administrator Therese Kirby last week, looking across the site of  the former Bristol landfill.
And indeed it is.
What last July was truly mountains of trash is now covered in layers of dirt, sculpted to fit seamlessly into the surrounding landscape and capped with acres of marble dust, an Omya byproduct that’s often marketed as Agrocarb and used as a soil enhancement. On top of that chalky substance, which doubles as both cap and topsoil, grass seed has been sprayed on and anchored in acres of jute matting.
Standing at the top of the southernmost slope and looking across the site to where the Hogback Mountains rise gently on the horizon, it’s easy to imagine that once the grass grows and things go a bit wild, the only visible sign that this was once a landfill will be the four ventilation pipes placed around the six-acre site.
Work to close the Bristol landfill at the west end of Pine Street has been carried out by Green Mountain Engineering and by Casella Construction for the past three months.
Back in July, Casella began trucking the 36,000 tons of the Omya capping material from Florence to Bristol to get the project jump-started. Since the landfill closed for good in early August, a crew of four to five workers has been at the site full-time, working bulldozers, excavators and loaders and trucks to change trash mountains, week by week, into what looks just like a typical Vermont hillside.
Green Mountain Engineering’s role has been to visit the site weekly and make sure that work progresses according to state specs.
“The town of Bristol could not have done this without the expertise of Casella Construction and Green Mountain Engineering,” said Kirby. “We just could not have done it. And it’s turned out to be this amazing project. When people see it, I think they’re just going to be blown away to look at it and remember when they were bringing their trash. Now it’s these beautiful, undulating rolling hills. If you’d told me before, that this is what it was going to look like, I never would have believed you.”
Kirby repeatedly emphasized how instrumental both Green Mountain Engineering and Casella Construction have been to the project’s success — both in terms of final results and in coming in far under budget.
Original cost estimates had put closing the landfill at $1.5 million. But working with Omya and Casella, the town was able to cut project costs by close to half. Bristol resident and Omya employee Michael Laurent told the town about the quarrying byproduct, which had already been used successfully to cap landfills, and Omya agreed to provide the $400,000 worth of material for free. Casella offered additional savings because it was already trucking for Omya.
Kirby said the town especially benefited from John Casella’s expertise in working with state agencies on the landfill closure.
“John was really active in the beginning in going to state meetings and coming with us and trying to figure out how could we do this,” said Kirby. “So it was really amazing to have this partner from the get go. John said, ‘Hey, we just want to see if we can help,’ and they did help.”
Joe Casella (he and his cousin work together on different aspects of the Casella Construction business) explained that part of the secret behind how flawlessly the site has been re-sculpted was the company’s use of state-of-the-art technology that keeps the bulldozers on track with the engineers’ grading plans by using a GPS system.
The final step in closing Bristol’s landfill will be to obtain the promised funds from the state. Last spring, when Bristol was contemplating bringing in more trash from elsewhere as a way to raise badly needed funds to close the landfill, the Shumlin administration put the kibosh on that idea. Instead, state officials negotiated with the town to close the landfill in exchange for a promise of up to $180,000 from the 2016 Capital Budget to help meet expenses.
As this article goes to press, total costs for closing the landfill are figured to be $747,819, and the town has in hand $636,000 to meet those costs. That leaves $111,819 left to pay, give or take a few outstanding invoices.
Kirby said she intends to 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.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at gaenm@addisonindependent.com.

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