Tensions were high Monday as residents in the area around the Coventry landfill expressed their anger and concern over a 51-acre expansion of the facility.
The plan, approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in October, has drawn criticism from some residents who fear the long term impacts of the state’s only permitted landfill.
A grassroots organization of opponents, known as DUMP, even accused landfill operator Casella Waste Systems of engaging in criminal activity in order to secure the necessary permits.
On Monday, John Casella, the company’s chairman and CEO, called on DUMP’ secretary Henry Coe to apologize.
“Henry’s serious accusation of criminal behavior by hardworking Vermont civil servants and employees and offices of Casella attacks the reputation and morality of decent people without presenting any evidence,” Casella said. “His behavior of falsely accusing people without proof poisons civic life.”
Coe publicly apologized at the meeting, saying the accusations, which were made in an email, were “uncharacteristic” of him.
“It wasn’t a gracious thing for me to do, and I apologized and took responsibility,” Coe said. “There are people of goodwill on both sides of the issue, and that’s part of human behavior, we can come to different conclusions.”
Still, Coe said, residents near the landfill “will be raising children and grandchildren here.
“It’s our home, and we have some legitimate concerns for the environment.”
One of the primary concerns is the potential for water contaminated by the facility to leak into the surrounding soil and Lake Memphremagog.
Tests conducted in August detected elevated levels of PFAS chemicals, including PFOA, in the groundwater near a closed portion of the landfill. The Centers for Disease Control has linked PFAs to an increased risk of cancer and other health issues.
Casella Engineer Joe Gay said Monday that the state’s groundwater regulations only apply beyond landfill property. He also denied that the landfill is leaking.
“The current monitoring and sampling results at various locations within the down gradient of the line landfill cells indicate it is essentially physically impossible that the line landfill is leaking,” Gay said.
Other residents voiced concerns about the odor and traffic caused by the landfill. Casella said the landfill expansion will likely start being used in 2022.