2006-12-07 / Front Page

Landfill closure, preparation costs for highway barn revealed

By Dotti Farrington

Town officials have been pondering in private a report dated Oct. 12 about estimated costs to close the town landfill and to build a public works barn there, the Jamestown Press learned Monday.

The estimates are $627,564 to close the landfill and $1,218,095 to prepare a site within the landfill for the highway barn. These figures do not include barn construction costs, according to the October report prepared by GZA GeoEnvironmental of Norwood, Mass. GZA has been engineering consultants to the town on the landfill closure for several years, and more recently the firm has revised a plan to locate the barn within the town's former landfill site.

Closing the landfill is mandated, but building the barn at the landfill is optional.

GZA prepared the estimates to reflect all the requirements that are being made by the state Department of Environmental Management after its study earlier this year of residents' concerns about possible well pollution from the landfill and fears about construction of the barn increasing the possibilities of pollution.

Officials thought they could build a barn at the landfill with little need for site preparation, and estimated in 2005 that barn construction

there would be about $1 million.

Estimates for a barn at the wastewater treatment plant at Taylor Point ranged from $2.1 million for a basic metal structure with nominal site work to $3.8 million for a masonry building and considerable site work. A $2.4 million version was rejected by voters 2,111 to 1,008 in November 2004.

Legal battle ?

In acknowledging Monday that the town has had the report for some time, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the document has been the topic of recent Town Council executive session talks that are allowed for matters that may be subject to potential litigation.

He said the North End Concerned Citizens have threatened a lawsuit if a decision is made to try to build the barn at the landfill. NECC leaders said earlier this year that they were not planning a lawsuit. They said they were working to make sure that all appropriate regulations were followed to protect their private well-water supplies as well as the town's reservoir system.

They more recently said they would work to make the rules governing the landfill closure more stringent. Town officials have interpreted such public remarks, combined with private comments, as being about litigation.

Some town officials have consistently said the north end residents were planning legal action to block a barn at the landfill, and the officials have cited this belief for various closed sessions in the past. The NECC has charged that town officials "are stonewalling" them and the public in general through various rulings, including speaking the open forum portion of Town Council meetings.

Keiser released the estimates from the GZA report after he

consulted with Town Solicitor J. William W, Harsch for a ruling on whether the documents were subject to state laws about public access to them. Keiser said Harsch told him the documents are public. He said Harsch also suggested that it would not be advisable to withhold information about the existence of the documents even if they were not subject to the rules about full public access.

Keiser said councilors have not made any decision about the barn option for the landfill. He said he did not know when they planned to make the documents or their discussions public.

State role

In July, the DEM approved the town's continued planning for closing the former landfill and the DEM ruled that it has no authority to block the proposed barn at the former landfill if all measures affecting ground water are met. The approval lists 16 categories of requirements the town must meet in making the closure.

The July ruling, awaited since December 2005, came as a fivepage letter to the town and a volume of several hundred pages with the responses by the DEM to each of more than 400 letters residents sent to that regulatory agency both for and against the closure plan.

Those July DEM documents are posted on the town's Web site.

The primary DEM requirements for the landfill closure are: paving an access road, storm-water drainage changes, testing excavated soil for contamination, and gaining all permits for channeling storm drainage offsite and installing a septic system for the town garage.

The DEM required GZA to prepare operating, soil management, and contingency plans for all aspects of the required work. The state said that the town could not seek exemption from any wetlands rules; and the barn would need a methane monitoring system.

The October estimates are based on the 50-percent closure plans GZA submitted a year ago, which were revised to meet DEM requirements. The next step is for the Town Council to authorize a 90-percent plan and council decision on whether that plan will be for the closure alone, or with provision for the highway barn.

Kesier said Monday that such a decision is not yet on the agenda for the council's Dec. 11 meeting. He said he expected a decision "by early January."

Landfill history

The Jamestown landfill operated from 1954 to 1984, with sludge from the wastewater treatment plant dumped there from 1980 to 1985. The property has since been used for a trash transfer station.

A new highway barn is needed to replace the old war munitions building at Fort Wetherill that has served for about 35 years as the base for the town's hodgepodge of places to store road-maintenance materials and equipment, including 24 items classified as vehicles, for use by the department's 16 members. The town first identified the need for a new town garage in 1980.

Jamestown is the first community in Rhode Island to have its landfill closure done under the 1991 delegation of the federal "superfund" program to the DEM for supervision. In 1998, the town volunteered for the program. According to the DEM, 24 other closures, from among 200 landfills and contaminated sites in the state to be cleaned up, are in various stages of

Return to top