Earlier this year, the Portland City Council approved plans to build a solar array on the capped dump near Ocean Avenue. My neighborhood is one of the closest to this landfill. About 10 years ago, my neighbor moved in and began a personal investigation into the site’s environmental condition.

Her thick notebook of facts raises more questions than answers: Conspicuously absent is a site analysis usually completed at the time of a landfill’s official closing. Also, testing wells were unmonitored and woody plants that can compromise the cap were allowed to grow abundantly on its hillside. We took for granted that the landfill, and the surrounding 400 acres of forest and streams, were properly monitored – particularly since it had been zoned for open recreation.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection now requires that Portland improve the site to state standards, including methane gas and cap integrity testing and proper hillside grading, before installing the solar panels. This is good news for all who live and play in the area.

It is the solar array proposal that caused a number of unpleasant environmental truths to bubble to the surface – facts that my neighbor has been telling us about for years. Hence, the environmental problems with the capped dump and the solar array installation are unavoidably entwined. And there is a rush to build before year’s end because of the governor’s veto of the solar net metering bill, L.D. 1504.

At this week’s neighborhood meeting, city officials and civil engineering firm Sebago Technics honestly admitted that the site has not been maintained properly. While I support the solar panel project, serious environmental questions must first be answered about this particular closed landfill as an appropriate building site. On Tuesday, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing beginning at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Kim Rich