NORWAY — The Department of Environmental Protection recommended surveying the Frost Hill Landfill following the discovery of elevated levels of contamination at the site off Route 117 in Norway, which was closed last year.
A site walk was held on Thursday, Sept. 21, at Frost Hill Landfill to decide the future of the facility – whether it will remain closed or to reopen it – though no final decision has been made yet.
The walk included members of the Norway Paris Solid Waste (NPSW) Board, Norway and Paris selectboards, Norway Town Manager Dennis Lajoie, Paris Town Manager Vic Hodkgins, NPSW Manager Warren Sessions and three Maine DEP employees.
NPSW Chairman Corey Roberge told the group of 13 gathered that the DEP recommended to close the landfill, but the board wanted to see if there were other options for the site. The DEP made the recommendation to close the site in November 2016 and the landfill, which is commonly referred to as the stump dump, temporarily closed in December 2016.
“Our concern was it wasn’t being operated correctly,” said Linda Butler, DEP project manager in the Technical Services division. “This recommendation was based upon several factors, including increasing trends in groundwater contamination, lack of proper operations and procedures, and the fact that most of the waste was being handled at their Transfer Station. Waste stored at the landfill was not being removed in a timely manner.”
The roughly 5-acre site was opened in July 1992. Sessions became NPSW manager in July 2014 and Margaret Cedroni was manager for seven years prior to that, according to NPSW Board member Tony Morra.
Since Frost Hill’s closure last year, the NPSW Transfer Station began collecting materials once brought to Frost Hill at the Brown Street station in Norway, including construction debris and wood.
Butler said a year ago options for the site were examined and included cleaning up the landfill and closing it or investing in it and establishing correct operational protocol to run the landfill. The latter includes banning materials from the site that do not belong there and “investing in individuals who are understand the operating requirements and provide adequate oversight.”
Norway Selectman Tom Curtis asked what other potential uses the site could have in the future. It could be used for recreational purposes as long as no wells or water access is required, though residential development should be restricted for another 50 years to let the natural process to occur, Bulter said.
Curtis asked if wind turbines were an option. They are, as long as the anchors do not penetrate the pit covers. DEP engineer Ariel Davidson noted some towns are installing solar panels at their defunct landfills.
“We have the obligation and authority to intercede at any point where we see that the rules are being violated when the facility is not in compliance, [when] it’s not being operated in accordance with the operations manual,” Butler said. “If we see, which we have in this case, elevated levels of contaminants in the monitoring well network – that raises a red flag and we’ll take a look, which we have at this facility, and say, ‘OK maybe we need to stop this to stop … further damage.’”
Bi-annual sampling of four monitoring wells and one surface water location by the DEP showed higher than acceptable levels of arsenic, manganese and sodium in the ground water.
There is no lining throughout the entire landfill to collect leachate, according to Butler.
“Leachate being what happens when you’ve got waste and you pour rain water through it and you see the ugly orange whatever that comes out the other side – that’s what contaminating your ground water,” she said, which can include metals.
Butler’s report from May of this year states there was roughly two years of waste not compacted or covered and there is no litter control as litter was windblown into the wood buffer area. In the inert area, she saw sheet rock, plastics and metals mixed in together.
“I believe the sheet rock and plastic were blown in from the top of the landfill,” Sessions said. “We took everything we could reach and brought it down … to the Transfer Station.”
“I literally don’t understand what has been buried over there. I don’t even want to know,” Butler said as she motioned beyond the large wood chip pile at the center of the site. “I am assuming from the remnants that were there … it was an old stump dump, which isn’t too terribly bad but it’s just more concentration of organics in one little spot.”
Davidson the engineer said the first thing that needs to be completed is a survey of the site, because the steep slope on the edge of the landfill is concerning.
“To see what we have to deal with, to see how much you have to build up,” she said. The surveyor would be able to provide options for the site and cost estimates, along with defining the waste boundary.
Butler asked Davidson if the slope could be terraced.
“It’s an option. We can investigate that,” Davidson answered.
Sessions said everything that was required by the DEP at Frost Hill for cleanup has been completed, except for the final cover, which has to be done in a year.
This includes cleaning up the wood line and removing litter from the wood buffer area, removing construction debris and shingles, chipping the wood and cleaning up the wood chips.
Sessions hired Cross Excavation to get rid of a year’s worth of construction debris and shingles that were stored in the cement area at the entrance of the site. That bill was $19,000, but he noted there was money for it since people pay to dispose of their construction debris and shingles.
It cost $7,000 to have the woodpile chipped by Marshall’s Grinding.
“[The DEP] didn’t want any wood chips on the ground. … They did not clean up to the DEP specifications, so we had to do it,” Sessions said. “That was after all the chipping had been done. … We were not impressed.”
But last week, Butler did say she was impressed with the cleanup since the last time she had been to the site.
“I’ve very pleased. You’ve done a good job,” she said.
Sessions noted NPSW is saving money by closing Frost Hill since there are two less employees and the Brown Street Transfer Station crew has been able to absorb the same operations at that location.
“We don’t lightly recommend closure. It seems suitable here. You’ve gotten your value. You’ve got a level of contamination,” Bulter said. “It’s one thing to contaminate your own site. … That’s our job is to protect all those people who own properties next door. … We just want to make sure there is enough buffer that remains and let Mother Nature do its job so we don’t get calls that there’s contaminated drinking water.”
If the NPSW Board decides to close the site, Butler said a consultant would be able to help with that process and the DEP has an application for such a move.
“If you are interested in pursing closure, we would recommend cover,” Butler said.
The wood chip pile could be used for this purpose, but this option needs to be investigated further.
A set of construction plans would be created for a contractor to follow to close the site and the consultant could help with the hiring of a contractor, Butler added.
“We have to look at costs,” Roberge said, adding at the approval of voters the two towns have set aside money at town meetings to close the facility.
“Optimistically if we … all move at a reasonable pace here, I would like to think by the end of the year we would have a direction,” Butler said.
Next construction season is when the closure would occur, she estimated.
A number of steps would have to be taken to reopen Frost Hill, according to Butler. This includes hiring a consulting firm to rewrite the operations manual and employing someone to supervise the landfill who has experience in disposing construction and demolition debris, land clearing debris and wood wastes.
“Often the consultant will provide training to the supervisor and attendant specific to the landfill, and … Maine DEP-approved operation procedures,” she said via email.
Her May report states the operating records and supervision of the landfill operation were inadequate and the 2015 annual report was incomplete due to lack of record keeping.
“What you would be allowed to put in here … would be restricted,” she told the group last week.
Regardless of which direction the NPSW Board decides go, Paris Selectman Gary Vaughn noted there is still one vacancy for a Paris representative on the NPSW Board. Anyone interested in serving can download an application from the town’s website at www.parismaine.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/committee-application.pdf or stop into the Paris Town Office at 33 Market Square and pick up an application.