Solid waste engineers will visit Cape Elizabeth’s transfer station this week to assess the safety of the facility after a former public works director was fatally injured there last week, the town manager announced today.

Herbert Dennison, 79, was throwing his garbage into the trash compactor on Nov. 24 when he was struck by a Ford Explorer driven by Christine Sharp-Lopez, 72. Police said she was backing up at a high speed when the vehicle struck Dennison and pushed him into the compactor, which wasn’t operating at the time.

City Manager Mike McGovern said engineers from Woodard & Curran of Portland will visit the site sometime this week and recommend any safety improvements that can be made immediately.

“I want them to look at the current operations – the way traffic and pedestrians circulate, the way solid waste is handled – and make short-term recommendations for anything we can do to make the place safer,” McGovern said.

McGovern told the Town Council in September about safety concerns at the transfer station and recommended hiring a firm to conduct a full study of the facility, he said.

Woodard & Curran also have been asked to submit a proposal for an in-depth study of the town’s solid waste disposal and recycling options, McGovern said. The scope of the study would encompass options ranging from making modification to the existing facility to adopting curbside pickup.


In a 2003 survey, only 9 percent of Cape Elizabeth residents supported a move to curbside pickup. The town spends about $550,000 annually on solid waste disposal and recycling as a member of the ecomaine regional trash burning and recycling facility in Portland.

When the accident occurred, the force of the SUV that backed into Dennison was strong enough to push him through a latched chain-link fence intended to keep people from falling into the hopper, said Public Works Director Bob Malley. There is also a low steel bar to prevent vehicles from backing into the hopper, he said.

The transfer station, which is closed on Tuesdays, reopened Wednesday after the fence was repaired, Malley said.

This story will be updated.

Kelley Bouchard can be reached at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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