Protesters Call For Maine To Reject Out-Of-State Waste At Old Town Landfill
Several dozen cars and trucks paraded through Old Town and down Route 16 on Thursday, past the Juniper Ridge Landfill, where environmental activists estimate that at least 30% of the waste is trucked in from out of state.
"When that landfill was first established in 2003 or 2004, there were statements made by the state government that there would be no out-of-state waste coming into this landfill," says John Banks, natural resources director for the Penobscot Indian Nation.
Ed Spencer, with the group Don't Waste ME, lives near Juniper Ridge, which is operated by waste management company Casella.
Spencer says that as President Joe Biden announces new stringent air emissions goals, the basic problem of waste still needs to be addressed.
"Outfits like Casella hauling trash all over New England and beyond has got to become a thing of the past, if we're going to have even a whisper of a clue of achieving these goals," he says.
Spencer says about 200,000 tons of out-of-state waste, which may have been trucked for hundreds of miles, winds up at Juniper Ridge each year.
"We just got to bring to the public's attention how atrocious this is, because it's really bad," said Jim Freeman of Verona Island.
As Freeman headed to his truck to get in line for the protest parade, he said that Maine should not be handling tons of waste from away, much of it building materials with high levels of toxins, that other cities and states don't want to handle.
Freeman and others say they're especially concerned about the amount of leachate — sort of a garbage tea that forms as water naturally percolates through the landfill — being released into the Penobscot River, which has been the target of industrial dumping and cleanup efforts for generations.
But on this Earth Day, with a new administration tackling a range of environmental issues, Freeman says he is optimistic.
"We're turning a corner now, and I think we all have to realize we're here, it's our watch," he says. "We have to protect the Earth and clean it up."
Penobscot Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana says the COVID-19 pandemic proved that, when it wants to, the world can act — fast.
"A pandemic has also been unfolding for years and that is a pandemic of environmental racism. Right now is the time for environmental justice," she says.
One effort currently before the Maine Legislature is to close a loophole in state law that allows waste generated from outside the state to be reclassified as in-state waste once it's been channeled through a Maine-based processing plant.
The event was organized by nonprofit group Don't Waste ME, and the Penobscot Nation.