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Legislation Would Close Loophole That Allows Out-Of-State Waste To End Up At Old Town Landfill

A bulldozer operator plows trash at the town landfill, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010, in Bath, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
A bulldozer operator plows trash at the town landfill, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010, in Bath, Maine.

A bill before the Maine Legislature would close a loophole that allows out-of-state trash to end up at a state-owned landfill in Old Town.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Anne Carney of Cape Elizabeth, told fellow lawmakers Monday that the loophole results in thousands of tons of trash ending up at the Juniper Ridge landfill norther of Old Town each year, putting nearby communities such the Penobscot Nation at risk of pollution.

"Not only is it wrong that Mainers pay for a landfill that has become a refuge for harmful and unwanted out-of-state waste, but this waste is significantly threatening the surrounding environment and those who live in the shadow of the landfill," Carney says.

Environmental groups and members of Maine's tribal communities also spoke in favor of the bill during a hearing of the Legislature's Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Under state law, Juniper Ridge can only accept waste that's from Maine, but some trash from other states can be reclassified as from Maine if it passes through a processing facility here and serves a secondary function at the landfill — such as construction material that's used to stabilize wastewater sludge or ground up debris that's used as daily cover.

Paula Clark, director of the state's division of materials management, says that Maine waste processors took in 259,000 tons of construction and demolition debris last year, and that the vast majority of it was from out-of-state and eventually landfilled.

Business interests, waste handlers and some communities have come out against the bill.

They argue that it would force the closure of ReSource Waste Services, a Lewiston facility that processes much of Maine's construction and demolition waste that comes from other states. (It took in more than 200,000 tons of in-state and out-of-state construction waste in 2018, according to Clark.)

"It's critical to be able to continue to accept waste from out-of-state," ReSource president and chief operating officer Gregory Leahey said during Monday's hearing, when asked whether the business could take in more construction waste from inside Maine.

Opponents of the bill also say that ReSource has an essential role in Maine's waste disposal ecosystem and that legislation passed last year already requires it to make some incremental reductions in landfilling over the next two years.

The company is now making a $1.5 million upgrade to increase how much waste it can convert to other uses so that it doesn't need to go to a landfill, according to Leahey.