- The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a notice of noncompliance to the operators of a landfill owned by Casella Waste Systems in the town of Southbridge for repeated odor issues. The July 7 letter references two specific inspections and multiple readings from a third-party odor monitor.
- During a September 2016 visit, inspectors found strong odors coming from an inactive land cell that had a temporary cap instead of a final cover system. The odor remained and was also present in a different area when the inspectors returned in June 2017. In addition, a third-party odor monitor required by DEP identified off-site odors on at least 20 occasions this year.
- The DEP notice requires Casella to submit a plan showing all of its gas collection and treatment equipment, as well as a plan for mitigating off-site odors, within 14 days. The company must submit another plan proposing ways to limit "all fugitive gas emissions" from the site, including an additional well installation if necessary, within 30 days. Casella must also submit a corrective action design permit application within 90 days for final cover systems in areas with temporary caps.
Ongoing questions about Casella's responsibility for groundwater contamination and the merits of its expansion proposals have made the landfill a contentious topic among local residents. This was reinforced by the company's defeat on a non-binding ballot question it sponsored in June asking residents whether the site should remain open. CEO John Casella and the landfill's local manager have both made public comments about the site's possible closure in recent months, and it could reach capacity as soon as next year without expansion approval, but no official plans have been announced yet.
"The vote was another step in the process of the life of the landfill," Joe Fusco, vice president of Casella, told Waste Dive. "We look forward to continuing to engage the community in that discussion."
For opponents of Southbridge, this noncompliance is seen as yet another sign of why the landfill should close. In addition to the 20 days with odor issues this year, the third-party monitor received "numerous other complaints" from different dates that couldn't be verified. In one instance, the smell was described as "like opening a trash can after a week of sitting." Fusco said the company always strives to remain in compliance and will work with DEP to resolve these issues.
Few, if any, major companies that operate landfills have been immune to odor problems involving at least one of their sites in recent years. This is often one of the most common complaints from area residents and has led to expensive enforcement actions or permit requirements around the country. Companies in the organics processing sector have also experienced their share of odor challenges, with some sites even getting shut down because of it.