Vermont’s lone operating landfill in Coventry sends leachate — potentially toxic sludge — to Montpelier for processing.
Any of the leachate that can’t be processed gets discharged directly into a river. Quite a few Montpelier residents didn’t know until now that this is happening, and they want it to stop.
“I just want to make the point that I, and others, aren’t saying, ‘not in my back yard’,” Darryl Bloom said. “We’re saying, ‘not in anyone’s back yard.’”
Leachate is formed when water filters through solid waste and carries some of the waste with it.
“I didn’t realize, until this week, that Montpelier was already processing this leachate and releasing these toxins into the Dog River because it couldn’t be processed appropriately,” Alisa Dworsky said.
The toxins Dworsky referred to are PFAS chemicals, man-made substances that have been linked to a wide range of health problems. The issues include kidney cancer, thyroid disease and problems in pregnancies.
Bennington and Hoosick Falls, New York are about ten miles apart. Both communities have learned in recent years that their drinking water supplies were contaminated with a particular type of PFAS chemical due to plastics manufacturing.
“We (in Montpelier) don’t have the right to put this into the river for those in Middlesex and Richmond and Burlington to swim in,” Steve Whitaker said. “This is a question of morality.”
For some people in Montpelier, it may also be a question of prevention.
“There’s an old saying about ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’,” Christy Binzen said. “Unfortunately, with PFAS, there is no cure right now.”
A Vermont Agency of Natural Resources public comment period is open through November 8 on a permit for the Coventry landfill to continue sending leachate to Montpelier. Some City Council members wanted to ask ANR staff to appear at their next meeting.
“Our next council meeting is November 10,” Councilor Lauren Hierl said. “I’m fully confident if we give the agency a heads-up that we will be submitting something a couple of days late, as the only off-kicker, that they will take our comments seriously.”
If Montpelier were to stop accepting the leachate from Coventry, it would likely be sent to Plattsburgh instead. According to a memo from the Montpelier Department of Public Works, there are currently no known methods for processing leachate other than sending it to wastewater treatment plants, but the ANR permit would require piloting a treatment program over the next year.