October 31, 2014

Companies collected too much trash, state says

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By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Two Williston trash consolidators violated their permits by exceeding annual limits on how much refuse they collect, state regulators allege.

Transfer stations operated by All Cycle Waste Inc. and North East Waste Services Inc. each accepted more than the permitted tonnage of trash for periods beginning in 2005 and extending into this year, according to the Waste Management Division of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The excess in each case amounted to thousands of tons.

All Cycle, which operates a facility on Avenue B, was permitted to accept 65,100 tons for the year ending Sept. 30. The state said the company actually collected 73,878 tons as of June 30.

North East Waste Services, which operates a facility on Redmond Road, was permitted to accept 40,000 tons of waste for the year ending March 31. It actually collected 49,104 tons of trash for the period, according to the state.

Transfer stations serve as consolidation points for area trash haulers. Refuse collected from area homes and businesses is dropped off at the facilities, then loaded on larger trucks and brought to landfills in Moretown and Coventry.

The alleged violations pose no threat to the environment, said Tony Barbagallo, facilities manager for the Chittenden Solid Waste District, which leases the Redmond Road transfer station to North East Waste Services.

Instead, Barbagallo said, they are the result of companies underestimating how much trash they would collect for the period. Companies pay in advance for the annual tonnage based on the estimate.

“This is all about money,” he said. “It has nothing to do with environmental protection. It’s the state taking action because (the companies) haven’t paid enough.”

The state charges transfer stations 75 cents per ton of trash. The levy costs each facility tens of thousands of dollars a year.

“What companies have to do is guesstimate,” said Tom Badowski, compliance manager for North East Waste Services. The state does not refund fees if the estimate is too high, he said, so his company tries to closely match the estimate to the actual tonnage it will collect.

Janet Shatney, permits and compliance administrator for All Cycle, did not return phone messages. All Cycle is a division of Casella Waste Systems, a company that operates throughout the Northeast.

Neither facility is close to exceeding its maximum operating capacity, which is set during a state certification process conducted every five years. The North East Waste transfer station can accept up to 120,000 tons annually; All Cycle’s facility can take in 175,200 tons.

Transfer stations can request routine administrative approval for increases in annual tonnage as long as they stay under the ceiling established during the certification process. Both companies made such requests and wrote checks for the additional tonnage – but only after they had exceeded the annual limits, according to the state.

In the North East Waste case, the company said in correspondence to the state that it was “confused by the various dates related to its certification,” leading to a late request for additional capacity.

Chris Wagner, chief of the state’s Certification and Compliance Section, acknowledged the state needs to better align dates. But he said it is also important for transfer stations to comply with permit conditions.

The alleged violations come as the Chittenden Solid Waste District prepares to seek approval for a new landfill on Redmond Road. A large and vocal group of residents who live near the proposed facility has organized to oppose the landfill.

It is unclear if a landfill would lead to the closure of the two Williston transfer stations. Barbagallo said the key issue is whether the district will win the legal right to collect all the county’s trash in the proposed landfill.

The district claims that eliminating the transfer stations and bringing all area trash to the landfill would result in a net reduction of 7,000 truck trips a year.

Trucks traveling to and from the transfer stations have long provoked complaints from some residents, who worry about safety and noise.

“My beef is with the speed of the trucks,” said Geri Carpenter, whose family has lived on Redmond Road for 14 years. “I go to my mailbox and I think I’m going to get run over.”

Complaints to CSWD over the years have produced temporary relief, Carpenter said, but the speeders soon return. She said the trucks are so noisy that she cannot carry on a phone conversation on her front porch.

Both North East Waste and All Cycle have asked the state to waive penalties for the alleged permit violations.

Wagner said no decision has been made about penalties. He said potential sanctions and fines vary considerably depending on the precise nature of violations.

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