Montpelier would be lone Vermont town to process landfill sludge under new permit

Local News

Concern is brewing in Montpelier about possible chemical contamination of the Lake Champlain basin by leachate — potentially toxic landfill sludge.

Casella Waste Systems, the operator of Vermont’s landfill in Coventry, pays Montpelier to treat leachate at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Any leachate the plant can’t handle gets discharged into the Dog River.

The treatment requires a permit from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The ANR is holding a public comment period through November 24 on a new version of the permit. The comment period has been extended to November 24.

“We can’t permit a discharge to a municipal wastewater plant if the city hasn’t approved it, and we won’t make a city accept a wastewater discharge,” ANR pretreatment coordinator Nick Gianetti told the Montpelier City Council.

Representatives from the ANR told city council members Wednesday that the new permit would remove treatment plants in Barre, Burlington, Essex Junction and Newport as leachate treatment point.

“Currently, Montpelier is the only municipality on the permit that’s accepting leachate under this permit,” Gianetti said. “Those other discharge points were removed for various reasons.”

Newport was removed because, according to Seven Days, there’s a moratorium on any leachate going there until 2026. Jay Leach, a Newport resident, said that Montpelier’s wastewater plant has discharged more than 72 million gallons of leachate — some of which may not have been fully treated — into the Dog River in the last ten years.

“This leachate contains upwards of 200 commingled chemicals into a toxic supermix that no one has ever tested — what this complexity of chemicals does to a human being,” Leach said. “No one has tested this, at least in the three years of research that I’ve been delving into.”

There are concerns that some of those chemicals may be PFAS chemicals, man-made substances linked to kidney cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy complications and other health problems. Some Montpelier residents are worried about the permit giving Casella Waste Systems too much authority under the new permit.

“Why would we give them the responsibility to monitor the pollution and come up with a treatment plan?” Deborah Dwyer asked. “And monitoring things two, three, four times a year does not seem sufficient.”

“It seems like we’re treating Casella with kid gloves here,” Steve Whitaker said. “Why aren’t we requiring their (treatment) plan before we even issue the permit? They’re making profits off of this stuff, and obviously, great profits, because they’re paying great monies to Montpelier to take it.”

Last year, Casella paid Montpelier $417,000 to accept leachate.

The leachate permit issue will be on the City Council’s agenda again when it meets November 17, and several council members said they’ll likely vote on some sort of formal action then.

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