Voters in Southbridge, Massachusetts rejected a referendum to expand a landfill facility, according to an article on MassLive.com. The non-binding ballot question would have allowed for an expansion of the state's largest landfill. Voters rejected the expansion in a 1,303 to 852 vote. Opponents of the expansion launched a “No on 1” campaign.
Casella Waste Systems, Rutland, Vermont, operates the 95-acre Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park. The landfill, permitted to accept 405,600 tons of waste per year, is reaching capacity, according to the MassLive.com article.
Casella is seeking four-phase expansion to run the facility for another 11 years, the article states. The ballot question asked if the town manager should negotiate a contract with Casella for continued management of an expanded landfill "to provide sustainable benefits and payments" to Southbridge.
Casella reportedly collected hundreds of signatures to put the question on the ballot and organized a "Southbridge First" campaign.
Much opposition has arisen with the expansion possibility. Residents have cited environmental issues and uncertainty about legal liability, because the landfill is on town-owned land. Another concern is with water contamination of private wells in the town of Charlton. Casella is providing bottled water to 29 Charlton homes, 10 of which are mandatory because of an order from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The wells are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen, the article says.
Casella has denied that the well contamination is from the landfill, citing a report that identifies other potential industrial sources.
The landfill has created $3.2 million in payments to the town last year; and around two dozen jobs. The company says the expansion plans would address many environmental concerns. In February, MassDEP reportedly denied a site suitability application for the landfill expansion, saying the firm failed to show the facility does not pose a public health risk. Casella appealed that decision.
Earlier in June, Toxics Action Center and Environment Massachusetts filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Casella and Southbridge violated the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by allowing landfill groundwater contamination. Casella has agreed to split with MassDEP the cost of a $10 million water line extension to the homes with contaminated wells, according to the article.