2006-07-27 / Front Page

Landfill price tags expected by September

By Dotti Farrington

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the Town Council Monday that he was not expecting any data about landfill costs before September. He said GZA GeoEnvironmental of Providence and Norwood, Mass., town consultant for landfill closure, needs at least a month to revise estimates to reflect the new state requirements assigned to the work.

The estimates will show two accounts: the cost to close the former landfill without the public works highway barn; and the costs to build the barn at the landfill. Keiser said the distinctions about cost will be precise so the town may know exactly what is involved. The Councilors had emphasized they need specific division of costs.

Many are predicting the cost of building the highway barn at the landfill site will be too high and another effort will have to be made to find a suitable location. the need for a new barn was identified about 25 years ago, but townspeople have disagreed on where to locate it. The landfill was proposed for the barn in 2004 shortly after voters rejected a $2.4 million plan for a barn at Taylor Point.

Keiser said that townspeople approved $75,000 to study the landfill as a barn site, and to design the barn if the study supported such a plan. He said voters have not committed specifically to a barn at the former landfill.

Residents views Ray Iannetta, who lives across the road from the former landfill, took the state Department of Environmental Management to task for its reference to the Jamestown landfill as "benign." "It is benign only in relationship to the superfund sites the state has closed. Jamestown's is the first in the Rhode Island voluntary closure program and by comparison should be benign. I want it benign. I want my water benign." He said the North End Concerned Citizens' plan to fight for an even more restrictive closure plan than the DEM has authorized.

The NECC is led by about a dozen landfill abutters who have long worked for stronger measures to contain potential pollutants at the former landfill, and who rallied others, mainly at the north end of the island, when that location was proposed as the highway barn site.

They are concerned that constructing the barn will stir up pollutants in the ground.

In early July, the DEM issued a report about what the town has to do to close the landfill and additional requirements that would have to be met to build a highway barn there.

The report contends that north end residents have no reason to fear "plumes of pollution" in their well water or related disasters, but the DEM report also maintains that many actions need to be taken to ensure there will be no pollution. The DEM has noted that it has no authority to prohibit the barn construction, but it has responsibility to assure that any construction at the landfill will not cause groundwater pollution.

Iannetta commented on misinformation about the NECC's asking North Kingstown not to provide water to Jamestown. He said that suggestion apparently represents an inaccurate report on an application to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for a sole-source-aquifer designation for Jamestown. He said North Kingstown was to be asked about its ability and willingness to provide water to Jamestown if requested. North Kingstown has provided Jamestown with water on an emergency basis when the island ran short during the past decade. Newport was also to be asked about water for Jamestown if needed, he said.

Iannetta said a reference to Love Canal was incorrectly attributed to the NECC. He said that comparison was made by an individual who was not a NECC member. The landfill issues represented "very emotional situations for everyone, especially those who live near the landfill," Iannetta said.

He suggested that the people concerned check the accuracy of facts with the town administrator, whom he praised for his attention and fairness in dealing with the problems.

Noting that she is an island newcomer, Roz Tinker of Seafarer Court said she was "heartened by Jamestown's care of its (municipal) water but then stunned by the disparaging needs and cavalier dismissal" of water concerns associated with the former landfill.

Aquifer status

Ellen Winsor, an NECC leader and the main developer of the sole source aquifer effort, also spoke about the EPA application and further steps needed if the island will be designated a sole-source aquifer.

After the meeting, she said she was "glad the council now has some clarity about the EPA letter and questions." She pointed out that the application and related letters are public documents available at the town administrator's office.

"Hopefully we all will be better off somehow, someway, for the debate" over the landfill and discussions about the aquifer matter.

Town officials have indicated some reluctance in embracing the aquifer concept. Keiser said earlier this year that the designation would have importance only if the town might seek federal funds for projects. He said the town has not applied for any federal funds for landfill closure and constructing a highway barn, although such funding was considered in previous years.

The EPA said the aquifer designation would apply to any other town projects for which federal funds were sought. A secondary result of a designation is the increased public awareness of the nature and value of local groundwater resources, according to federal officials.

Winsor is seeking the aquifer designation to raise public consciousness about protecting ground water and preventing contamination of the island's aquifer, goals developed as offshoots of her NECC work.

Last April, the DEM said it "is supportive of the idea (of the aquifer designation) and would be happy to work with the town on the petition."

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