By Katie Lovett
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Continual shutdowns of the crucial flare at the Crow Lane landfill should be resolved shortly, Mayor Donna Holaday said this week.
The flare, which burns off the gases from the landfill, had stopped operating for the last several days — an occurrence that has been happening once a week for the last month or so. Without an operational flare, the surrounding neighborhood has once again been dealing with the strong odors of hydrogen sulfide emitting from the landfill. The smell, similar to rotten eggs, can cause a variety of health ailments, including headaches, nausea, itchy eyes and sore throats.
In an email to the homeowners, Holaday reported that she spoke with the Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell on Thursday, and the state agency is working with landfill owner New Ventures and the city to resolve the ongoing issues that are preventing the final capping of the landfill off of Low Street.
The mayor said a contractor hired to fix the flare system expects to finish their work within two weeks. Until then, an autodial alarm will be installed to notify DEP if the flare stops working, she said.
“The issue is particles collecting in the system and causing the flare to shut down,” she wrote. “An employee of DEP lives in the area and is checking the flare daily as is the contractor for DEP a couple of times each week. This cycle of the flare shutting down every 7 to 10 days should be fixed shortly.”
Throughout the week, the pungent smell has emerged early in the morning about 8 a.m. and returned late in the evening, according to the homeowners. However, the smell wasn’t detectable yesterday, said Wildwood Drive resident Ron Klodenski, leading to cautious optimism that the neighborhood would be able to enjoy the long holiday weekend.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.
Holaday told the neighbors that city officials and the DEP will be communicating weekly in hopes of being “more proactive than reactive.” She has requested a complete list of items that need to be addressed for the final closure, the mayor added.
“We are almost there,” she wrote.
Klodenski said he hopes that’s true.
“We’ve been ‘almost there’ for three years now,’” he said. “I hope it happens, but it won’t surprise me if it gets delayed again.”
The landfill was purchased in 2000 by the company New Ventures with the plan of closing it by heaping tons of demolition debris on top and capping it. Since then, city officials have been working to get it completely capped — a lengthy battle between the city and the landfill owner that at times has led to court action.