2006-07-13 / Front Page

DEM okays landfill site for highway barn

By Dotti Farrington

The state Department of Environmental Management has approved the town's plan for closing its former landfill, and the DEM has also ruled that it has no authority to block the proposed construction of a highway barn there if all measures affecting ground water are met.

Awaited since December, the ruling was received by Town Administrator Bruce Keiser late last week as part of a five-page letter of approval. Monday night he gave an oral report to the Town Council. Keiser also received from the DEM a several-hundredpage volume containing its responses to more than 400 letters from island residents both in favor and opposed to the town's closure plan.

Keiser said the DEM responses were already posted on the town's Web site, and the DEM letter of approval was due to be on the Web site by the end of this week.

The town administrator said he would meet with the town's consultant on the landfill project, GZA GeoEnvironmental of Norwood, Mass., within 10 days. Keiser said he expected to be prepared to relay the GZA requests and recommendations to the council at its July 24 meeting.


The DEM approval lists 16 categories of requirements the town must meet in making the closure.

Some townspeople, especially opponents to the plan, believe meeting the requirements will be especially expensive. Town officials originally proposed locating the highway barn at the landfill with the expectation that there would be little cost for site preparation.

The primary DEM requirements that Keiser listed for the council included:

+ Paving an access road to the top of the landfill, rather than leaving it unpaved as the town proposed.

+ Storm-water drainage changes to be made.

+ Separating and screening solid waste from soil, and testing the soil to be used as fill within the site rather than trucking it all to the Johnston landfill, which the DEM originally said might be required.

+ Serving the highway barn by a water line from Lot 47 if the line through the decaying refuse is encased and set in clean fill.

+ Obtaining all appropriate permits for channeling storm drainage off-site and for installing a septic system for the highway barn.

The DEM noted that its approval of plans is subject to its comments and conditions being satisfactorily addressed in the town's future submission of a design plan that is 90-percent complete. Keiser said he could not project when those plans would be ready.

The DEM said it needs more information about proposed underdrains at the barn location within the landfill site, and drawings that clearly show where the underdrains and subdrains will discharge.

More DEM requirements

The state regulatory agency detailed several requirements pertaining to the separation of waste and soil, testing methods during the separation, and specific reports, restrictions, and designs for use of

the soils. The DEM said it needed data that would clarify "the basis upon which the soils over the waste were characterized as low permeability reworked native glacial till."

The DEM said it wanted an amendment to the operating plan for the transfer station at the landfill site to show the equipment and procedures that will be used to screen the soil from the waste. The town also must provide a soilsmanagement plan about parameters of soils and a contingency plan to prevent and mitigate dust and odors during excavation and screening.

The DEM noted that the garage plan will not allow the closure plan to be exempt from state wetlands regulations, and the town must apply for approval under freshwater wetland rules.

The state said the garage will need a methane monitoring system with alarm thresholds and action plans for alarm situations.

Paving will be needed at the composting area, as well as for the access road to the upper storage area, the DEM said.

No contaminated soil may be used for the final vegetative cover, under the DEM requirements.

The DEM requires 30 years of monitoring, but did not specify the date for the monitoring to start, which has been a point of contention, mainly among opponents to the way the landfill closure is being handled.

The DEM also asked the town to detail its plans to monitor the landfill settlement and maintenance of minimum slope requirements.

Requirements for handling and documentation of utility trenches and use of pipe material compatible with compaction and leachate characteristics were outlined by the DEM. It asked the town to provide more data about the proposed "geosynthetic to be placed against the trash layer," and how the design will limit possible collection of leachate in the proposed slotted wall drain.


DEM had the latest landfill plans, representing 50 percent of the design work, by GZA since December. The DEM conducted a hearing on the plans in early February, and then received more than 400 letters with arguments for and against the plan.

The landfill has not been operated since 1984. The site is currently the location of the transfer station on North Main Road. The town identified the need for a new highway barn about 25 years ago, but townspeople have disagreed on where the garage should be located.

Residents in the landfill area are mainly opposed to the closure plan including the garage because of concerns that toxins in the landfill will be stirred up and possibily contaminate private water wells in the area. Residents elsewhere generally want the barn there because it failed to get voter approval to be sited elsewhere on the island.

Jamestown is the first community in Rhode Island to have its landfill closure done under the federal "superfund" program under state DEM supervision. The town volunteered in 1998 for the program. According to the DEM, 24 other closures are in various stages of planning. In Rhode Island, there are a total of 200 landfills and contaminated sites that need to be cleaned.

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