Toxics Action Center
Toxics Action Center

For Immediate Release August 3rd, 2017

Press Statement Re: Casella Announcement That It Will Close Southbridge Landfill

Advocates celebrate and call for continued clean-up

SOUTHBRIDGE, MA, Aug. 02, 2017 —

 

Casella Waste Systems, Inc. , a regional solid waste, recycling and resource management services company, today reported its financial results for the three month period ended June 30, 2017.

 

In addition to its financial results Casella announced their plans to close the Southbridge landfill after current capacity has been filled.,

“Our team has worked hard over the last 14 years to develop an environmentally sound disposal facility in Southbridge to serve the needs of our customers throughout Massachusetts,” said John W. Casella, Chairman and CEO of Casella Waste Systems, Inc. “However, given the innumerable regulatory and political roadblocks we have faced over the last three years as we have worked to develop additional capacity at the site, and expect we would continue to face, we do not believe that further development at the existing landfill site will generate an adequate risk adjusted return. As such, during the second quarter we adopted a plan to close the Southbridge landfill when the current permitted airspace is fully consumed, with the site expected to close by December 31, 2018.”

In particular, Casella credited the lack of local support for their decision to close:

“However, over the last few years we have not received a level of local support and it is necessary to develop a sustainable long term landfill. As such we invigorated our efforts to engage community leaders and the residence of Southbridge in a productive dialogue about the landfill. That’s part of this effort on June 13, we put forward a non-binding referendum to the citizens of Southbridge to seek support for the development of additional airspace. Unfortunately very few citizens came out to vote and we only received roughly 40% of the vote.”

Full transcript here. Letter to town of Southbridge from Casella here.

The vote referenced occurred 4 days after the announcement by Toxics Action Center and Environment Massachusetts that they had filed a lawsuit in the federal court in Worcester against Casella Waste Systems, Southbridge Recycling & Disposal Park, and the Town of Southbridge over the release of toxic pollutants from the Southbridge Landfill that have contaminated drinking water wells and a nearby stream and wetlands.

 

Community leaders, organizers and advocates who have been working for years for closure, clean up and a push to zero waste reacted:

“While I am pleased that the landfill will be closing, this does not resolve the groundwater pollution problem. We need to know what Casella and Southbridge are going to do to stop and remediate this pollution,” said John Jordan of Clean Wells, a community group for the tri-town area, “If they believe that they can escape accountability for the pollution by simply closing, they are wrong. They need to clean this mess up. They also need to compensate their neighbors for the damage that their pollution–including their odor and noise pollution–has caused.”    

“When citizen action drives enforcement of environmental regulations, polluting facilities are no longer profitable and they get shut down,” said Kirstie Pecci, an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation and resident of Sturbridge. “This doesn’t change the fact that the wells in our community are contaminated, but at least Casella has abandoned its plan to bury another four million tons of waste here.”

“I couldn’t be prouder to be called a “regulatory and political roadblock” by one of the worst polluters in New England,” said Claire Miller of Toxics Action Center, “When we force leaking toxic landfills to comply with their legal obligations, when we stand with scores of concerned residents who can no longer drink or cook with or bathe in their well water, we expect that the industry won’t be happy. It’s time for Casella to clean up its mess. Scores of drinking water wells are still contaminated. While we’re glad Casella sees the writing on the wall regarding the viability of this failed landfill, but this is still a public health crisis and it is unacceptable.”

 

“This landfill may be filling up, but we have long been fed up with the pollution, noise and public health problems it causes,” said Janet Domenitz, Exec Director of MASSPIRG. “Hopefully this turn of events helps push the Commonwealth away from disposal and towards reduce/reuse/recycle.”

“This is not over: the contamination is still there, and still leaking into local wetlands and streams,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director of Environment Massachusetts.  “The Southbridge Landfill must comply with the Clean Water Act in order to protect McKinstry Brook and its surrounding wetlands, and the wildlife and recreational activities that depend on them.”

“Closing the landfill is a first step towards relief for nearby residents,” said Kevin Budris, attorney at the National Environmental Law Center, “but Casella must take steps beyond closure to stop the landfill’s release of toxic pollutants such as 1,4-dioxane, lead, iron, and manganese. Toxics Action Center and Environment Massachusetts will be pressing forward with their lawsuit against Casella to force this facility to comply with federal environmental laws, remediate the environmental harm caused by these pollutants, and ensure access to safe drinking water for all who live nearby.”

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