Letter: The Mountain By the Lake by Don Peterson

in Letter to the Editor

The only reason Vermont has a monster landfill by the lake in Coventry is because 100 years ago dumping trash into wetlands was considered a great way to manage solid wastes.

We don’t do things that way now, but due to inattention on the part of the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), there are now no other alternatives to the disposal of solid waste in Vermont.

That’s hard for me to accept.

That other possible location, the former Palisades landfill in Moretown is currently abandoned. It was a slow moving train wreck that anybody who was there at the dawn of the Act 78 era could predict would end badly.

At the time, it was common knowledge in the trade that Valley Disposal was on the ropes, was desperate for money, and lacked the cash flow to properly manage the Palisades site.

The site changed management several times. The ANR threw up their hands and walked away.

So after the failure to site a landfill in Chittenden County, and the collapse of Palisades, the lined landfill in Coventry managed by the rational people at Casella looked pretty attractive.

Casella does a good job with their landfill and why shouldn’t they? As the saying goes in the trade—it’s a simple business.

They are very likely better funded than their regulators, and have deeper expertise, with the result being predictable— they’ve outmaneuvered the ANR into agreeing to a development that does not reflect any kind of responsible solution to the disposal of our solid waste.

Part of the horse trading that created this extension is related to the Quiros’ need to have a longer runway for their corporate jet.

Casella was happy to trade some much-needed runway space in exchange for landfill space. While the Conmen from Miami are gone, the landfill extension remains.

If South Bay were undeveloped now, the idea of sitting a landfill there of any size whatever would be viewed as lunacy.

I’m used to less than brilliant solutions to the problems of modern life, so lunacy is just a degree.

The town of Coventry likes the revenue, even though an unknown amount has been squandered. Wherever the money went, one town’s desire for a low tax rate wouldn’t override the quality of water of an entire basin in any other place in the state, excepting maybe Lake Carmi.

It all means that an international body of water is host to an expanding landfill mainly as a convenience to the ANR, who can’t seem to find anywhere else to dump trash.

This is more an object lesson in how not to manage a state than how to run a landfill.

So let’s drop the jargon — this is a huge beautiful lake and the ANR is approving its shores for expanded garbage disposal. They can’t come up with a better idea. I suppose we should be grateful they aren’t barging it out to the middle and sinking it there, but I’m not.

The South Bay Area is a huge wetland, and it’s amazing that while the ANR chooses to prosecute even tiny infractions of the Wetlands Act all over the state, Mount Casella-by-the-Lake abides.

For some reason, it’s ok to develop the South Bay but not ok to put a driveway through a swale in Jericho. I resent the implication—that your suburbs are more important to Vermont than our huge international lake.

I’m left feeling very sad for the Northeast Kingdom: without it, most of Vermont would be more akin to a suburb of Boston.

The NEK allows the rest of you to support the pretense that you live in a state unspoiled by development, a place clean and fresh and special.

And for some reason, that best unspoiled place, the avatar of your countless brochures and websites is where you choose to dump your trash and build your fantasist green energy skylines.

Well, for one thing, we’re too poor to object. But I for one am very disappointed in the rest of you. Find another place your garbage.

Don Peterson is a longtime resident of Lowell and says he was employed as the controller of a medium sized Vermont trash company in the 1990’s. In his submission, he said he wants to remind people that an open public awareness meeting is planned for Monday, Sept 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the Gateway Center in Newport.

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