2010-09-09 / Front Page

DEM OKs closure of landfill

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Jamestown Town Council this week marked a pair of major milestones – the adoption of a comprehensive resolution opposing a liquefied natural gas terminal in Mt. Hope Bay and the acceptance of a letter announcing the Dept. of Environmental Management’s approval of a plan to close the North Main Road landfill.

The LNG resolution that the council adopted unanimously on Sept. 7 is essentially the same document that the councilors rejected by a 4-to-1 vote earlier this year.

The landfill plan has been in the works for more than 10 years.

The DEM letter signing off on a closure plan was sent to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser. The initial phase of closure work, which will be managed by GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., could start next summer.

Keiser told the council that the $450,000 cost of closing the landfill would be funded by a municipal bond that Jamestown voters will be asked to approve at the next financial town meeting. He added that debt service for the 20- year bond would be upwards of $35,000 a year, depending on the interest rate the town locks in for the debt.

Under the GZA plan, all areas of the landfill directly over buried waste will be covered with at least two feet of soil, including six inches of loam. The loam will support the growth of vegetation, whose roots will help trap rainwater that would otherwise percolate into the wastes below.

In addition, some areas of the cap will be graded at a minimum of 5% – and a maximum of 33% – to help deflect rainwater, and stormwater management systems will be installed per state regulations. Paved areas lying over buried waste will be subject to capping requirements as well.

Although DEM was expected to issue its decision on the proposed remedial plan this year, the adoption of the LNG resolution was a surprise. The Jamestown LNG Threat Committee had not announced any plans to draft a resolution in its previous updates to the council.

During its Feb. 2 meeting, the council endorsed a General Assembly resolution on the LNG proposal, but the focus of that resolu- tion, which was authored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D), was limited to a request for Coast Guard reconsideration of a statement issued in the summer of 2009.

In that statement, the Coast Guard said that the area of Mt. Hope Bay proposed for a LNG berthing-and-offloading facility would allow sufficient maneuvering space for the tankers.

During the same Feb. 2 meeting, the council voted down a far more expansive resolution from the Jamestown-based LNG Working Group, which was founded by council member Ellen Winsor.

The council rebuffed the resolution offered by Winsor because of concerns that the document, which was intended for adoption by all Narragansett Bay-area municipalities, might not pass elsewhere, which has not been the case. Additionally, in previous remarks on the WG resolution, council member Bill Murphy assailed resolution verbiage questioning the availability of Coast Guard resources for tanker escorts.

Despite those concerns – and presumably because the council was about to host yesterday’s Congress of Councils to formally unify opposition to the LNG proposal – the lightly revised WG resolution was brought forward for adoption.

LNG Threat Committee Chair Dan Wright told the council that every issue previously identified by his panel had been addressed. In addition, he said, “We talked to Save the Bay and the Conservation Law Foundation, and we feel that signing [the WG resolution] is a good idea. It should be supported.”

The only significant changes to the WG resolution are as follows: The names of all the towns which have signed the document, along with the WG “byline” and the geographic location of newly identified natural gas reserves, have been deleted; and the Coast Guard verbiage has been revised to say, “The security and safety requirements for the [LNG] proposal would require the U.S. Coast Guard to devote substantial public resources to provide for this private undertaking.”

Though the council previously offered unyielding opposition to the WG resolution, the discussions and vote on the document during Tuesday’s meeting were held with equanimity.

During the last council meeting, for example, the council members adopted a “press release and advisory” alleging that Winsor has been inappropriately representing the WG resolution as an official Jamestown document. The advisory also says that Winsor is not representing Jamestown when she presents the WG resolution to other town councils.

As of presstime, the “press release and advisory” was still posted atop Jamestown’s official website.

In other business, the council adopted an agreement in principle to participate in the Washington County energy efficiency audit of municipal and school facilities. The agreement does not obligate Jamestown to spend any money; in fact, Jamestown has $112,000 in federal grant money available for its audit and any subsequent energy efficiency improvements.

Although Winsor raised a concern about the total – and, as yet, unknown – amount of management fees that the town would be charged, the other councilors felt that its adoption of the regional agreement – which will save money for all the participants – serves only to “start the ball rolling,” and passed the agreement.

Keiser said, “We owe it to our citizenry to have a full-scale analysis of our buildings.” He also said that the process of selecting an energy auditing company will start this week.

The council also: • Held off any decision on a Bike Path Committee suggestion to extend the 25 mph speed limit on North Main Road until Keiser meets with the state Dept. of Transportation to discuss the feasibility of a bike path along that road. The council also held off any decision on a proposal to extend to 8 p.m. (from 6 p.m.) the two-hour parking limit on Narragansett Avenue until the councilors hear from the business community. Both proposals would require public hearings before any motion for adoption.

• Approved a Harbor Commission proposal for the town engineer to prepare a formal bid solicitation for the work required to replace the Ft. Getty boat ramp with a longer 70-foot ramp. Commission chair Michael de Angeli asked the council to appropriate about half the money necessary for the work, or $55,000, from the Ft. Getty Capital Improvement Fund. Although the council is not opposed in principle to the request, council member Murphy said the transfer should wait until engineering work yields a precise cost estimate.

• Declined to endorse an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed wind turbine at Taylor Point. The EIS has been requested by Conservation Commission Chairman Chris Powell since February. Council member Bob Bowen said he felt that the request was “a bit overboard” because, while not strictly scientific, the environmental analysis provided by the former Wind Energy Committee should suffice. In other turbine news, Keiser said that the planned visual depiction of the turbine would be upgraded from a series of pictures to a video simulation.

Return to top