NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 19, 2013

Groveland will pay for landfill pollution

By Shawn Regan
Staff Writer

---- — HAVERHILL — Groveland will pay the city $700,000 for its role in polluting the old Haverhill landfill which closed in 1981.

Haverhill sued Groveland several years ago. The payment, which was approved by Groveland voters earlier this month, is the result of negotiations between the two communities, Mayor James Fiorentini said.

The town will pay $600,000 and its insurance company will pay the other $100,000, Fiorentini said.

”We thank Groveland for working with us on this,” the mayor said. “They were always going to help. Their dispute was with their insurance company over how much it would pay.

”In the end, they paid us a little more than they wanted to and a little less than we wanted, so it’s a good compromise,” he said.

The landfill, which in on Old Groveland Road and borders the Merrimack River and Johnson Creek at the Groveland line, opened in the 1930s. It was used primarily by Haverhill, but also by Groveland for many years. It is one of the last unlined facilities of its kind in Massachusetts that hasn’t been capped yet.

Once the landfill is capped, the city must decide on a reuse plan for the property.

Some people have said they favor building athletic fields or other recreational areas on the land. The mayor has said he is interested in installing solar panels at the site, which would produce electricity the city could use or sell.

Haverhill is already home to a large solar panel “farm” on Hilldale Avenue, just outside Lafayette Square. Dozens of panels on that site collect solar power that feeds into a network to provide electricity to homes.

State and federal regulators have ordered Haverhill and Aggregate Industries of Groveland, which co-owns the 66-acre property, to equally share the $44.6 million cost of capping the landfill.

Haverhill has already incurred almost $9 million in loans and is on the hook for about $13 million more, according to city documents. The city is borrowing the money from a state-subsidized low-interest loan fund, the mayor said.

The Groveland payment will be put into an account to pay for the next phase of the project, capping the northern mound of the dump, the mayor said. The first phase of the project, capping the southern mound, is in the final stages, he said.

Fiorentini said the majority of the money to pay the city’s loans will come from its annual operating budget. However, he said officials may be able to pay a portion of the loans from an account funded by sewer and water bills, because the Wastewater Department once dumped sludge at the landfill.

The city and Aggregate Industries also previously paid about $6.5 million to remove thousands of barrels of hazardous material buried at the dump and to conduct environmental studies of the land.