, Newburyport, MA

June 24, 2013

Port still waiting for fixes to troublesome landfill


---- — NEWBURYPORT — Regardless of what happens in Groveland, most observers in Newburyport would say that New Ventures LLC had caused problems for those who had hoped the landfill on Crow Lane could be closed and sealed without complication.

For more than a decade, New Ventures has been in the process of closing the site, which it owns. Now the owner of the company, William Thibeault, is filing for permits to fill in an abandoned quarry in Groveland (see related story).

Several hundred thousand dollars have been spent on the closure project, but residents who live near the site still complain consistently of noxious odors coming from the site, which is filled with tons of household and commercial waste aggregated over the years.

In recent weeks, in fact, residents complained again of odors coming from the landfill.

City officials for years have sought support from state Department of Environmental Protection as part of an effort to stop such odors and seal the nine-acre landfill.

DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmel stated in May that he will aid Newburyport in compelling New Ventures to take action to stop offensive gases such as hydrogen sulfide from entering the air.

But a state of clean air has been difficult to obtain.

One of the frustrating elements of working with New Ventures appears to be Thibeault does respond to some directives. The company has made changes that DEP required over the years, and within the last month has responded to complaints by making adjustments to monitoring devices at the landfill.

Mayor Donna Holaday referred to a situation recently in which a flare to burn off noxious gases had expired: “I was pleased in the recent incident where the flare was inoperable that New Ventures did respond to the 72-hour notice issued by the DEP per the settlement agreement and repaired/restarted the flare,” which resulted in a cessation of noxious odors.

Holaday recently told The Daily News, “I am awaiting word from DEP on the plan to proceed with the final closure (connect new header system for the gas extraction system and complete wetlands work) as well as plans for post-closure.

“The city’s position has been made very clear to the DEP — this needs to be finished and the Financial Assurance Mechanism (FAM) will not cover the final closure, so DEP and our state Legislature must step in to help.”

This FAM account was funded by New Ventures (at the state’s insistence) for about $2.7 million. There is about $90,000 remaining in the fund.

Much of that figure was spent on improvements that DEP ordered, according to city and state officials.

However, about $180,000 is needed to finish the closure and to develop a post-closure plan, according to city officials. Holaday is looking for the state assistance to travel the final mile.

State Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport, recently said there might be state funds available to help seal the landfill.

“The DEP has money to close what are known as orphan sites,” said Costello. “We are going to be lobbying actively to be included in the fund or the general fund, to come up with enough money to close the site — and to monitor it for years after.”

Indeed, this city’s experience with New Ventures appears to have been one in which municipal and state leaders have had to cajole, threaten and/or litigate to get the company to take comprehensive action to stop odors and seal the landfill.

The story goes back to at least 2000, when New Ventures said it intended to cap the Crow Lane site.

In late 2003, the state Department of Environmental Protection approved the landfill owner’s conceptual plan to close the site albeit with several conditions. The Crow Lane dump was capped by bringing enormous quantities of construction debris from Thibeault’s Everett-based company, mounding it up on top of the dump, and then covering it with protective layers and topsoil. What was once a fairly flat plain is now one of the highest hills in Newburyport.

Yet the site has not been successfully sealed and closed. A variety of offensive odors have annoyed nearby residents and rankled local officials.

Municipal leaders have taken the company to court on numerous occasions, in large part because company managers have not complied with state and municipal directives in a timely manner.

But New Ventures, a company with deep pockets and capable lawyers, has appeared to move at its own pace when it comes to successfully concluding operations.