Casella Waste Services is currently pushing Maine officials to extend its contract to manage the state-owned polluting Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town. The problem is that this contract still has a decade to go, and the company is attempting to push this process ahead prematurely to expand the landfill and commit Maine to many more decades of toxic landfill pollution.

Landfill expansions have to go through many legal stages for good reason: landfills harm residents and the environment. But Casella appears reluctant to follow these laws without first extending the operating contract.

Last month, people turned out in droves to challenge this senseless plan. State officials held the meeting to get feedback from people who live near the landfill and said they will not make any decision on the contract until this summer. It’s clear that the community is opposed to this plan, and it’s time state officials heed these calls.

Extending the contract now is simply a bad idea. It puts the cart before the horse, undermining both the public’s rights in the process for the proposed expansion and the legitimacy of the process itself. This landfill is also polluting nearby waters with toxic chemicals.

Members of the Penobscot Nation testified to threats posed to their sacred relative, the Penobscot River, from the toxins and polyfluoroalkyl forever chemicals (PFAS) residing in the millions of gallons of landfill runoff discharged into the river.

PFAS are linked to serious health impacts such as decreased fertility, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, reduced immune system function, and more. With state oversight and full public input, Casella should install a treatment system to remove PFAS from the landfill leachate to meet drinking water standards before it is discharged, as wastewater, into the Penobscot River. Casella has already been required to set up such a PFAS treatment in Vermont.


Citizens of the Penobscot Nation also spoke about other ways this landfill is harming nearby communities. Noxious air pollution from the landfill is contaminating clothing with odors, and people are concerned it could affect the health of their children. Casella’s own spokesperson conceded that the company is having a hard time controlling disgusting odors from the facility. Community members also voiced fears about impacts to wildlife who are exposed to this garbage.

Residents clearly do not want an expansion of the landfill. State officials must start by conducting a cumulative impacts assessment, which is inherent in the environmental justice analysis that is now legally required for any landfill expansion.

Some of these problems may be fixed through legislation. L.D. 2135, sponsored by Rep. James Dill, D-Old Town, which would postpone any contract extension until the contract’s transparency is improved, until Casella is required to treat landfill runoff for PFAS by a set date, and until the Public Benefit Determination stage is complete.

Casella asserts it has a 20-year history of impeccable service with zero violations. But residents still have no verifiable answer for what caused the fire at the landfill last May that spewed debris, likely contaminated with dioxins and PFAS, into the atmosphere. The pollution settled out on neighboring lands and vegetation, including the Penobscot Nation’s annual cultural harvest of fiddleheads. Last year at this time, Casella said the landfill was unstable because of an increase in landfilled sludge.

It’s time for Maine to adopt zero waste goals at the front-end of the waste stream to reduce, reuse and recycle, and to safely compost organics – in line with the state’s solid waste management hierarchy. Infrastructure and programs must be developed regionally, and control and accountability for operations should be kept local. These efforts would protect public health and the environment and keep profits in the local economy.

Casella must be held to the due process of the law now, not granted a VIP pass to its proposed landfill expansion.

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