NORRIDGEWOCK — More than a dozen people spoke in favor of Waste Management Disposal Services of Maine at a public meeting Thursday night, praising the company for its support of local Boy Scouts and youth sports programs and other contributions to the local community.

“Over the years, there have been many different things we’ve come up with or tried to do, and usually there’s a lack of people or funding to get those things done,” said Bob Gileott, president of the Norridgewock Area Chamber of Commerce, during the meeting at Mill Stream Elementary School.

“Numerous times we have worked with Waste Management and they have come to our aid, whether it’s a fundraiser for us or something you benefited from as residents. The town tree lights, a lot of other things, they probably had a hand in it; and if they didn’t, it was unusual. With a lack of people and funds, they never said ‘no.'”

Thursday’s meeting, hosted by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, served to gather feedback from residents on the public benefit of a proposed landfill expansion at Waste Management’s Crossroads Facility in Norridgewock.

The expansion, which would add about 15 years of capacity to the landfill, also would include upgrades to a public transfer station on Airport Road and the addition of a composting and textile recycling program.

The majority of attendees at the meeting voiced support for Waste Management, though they did not expressly state support for the landfill expansion.

“Any time we needed a project done, waste removed from a building, anything, we could always call and count on the support of Waste Management,” said Heather Johnson, former executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Corp. “It’s a fairly quiet group. They don’t do a lot of PR work, but certainly from an economic development perspective, they contribute a lot to the area.”

Municipal trash hauling trucks unload on top of a huge hill of trash Thursday at Waste Management’s 933-acre Crossroads facility in Norridgewock. Waste Management is proposing to expand the landfill 51 acres on land it owns, upgrade the transfer station used by nine towns, and increase waste reduction and recycling by adding a textile recycling program and a composting program. Staff photo by David Leaming

Todd Pineo, who said he has been a member of the Norridgewock Fire Department for 23 years and is also on the Norridgewock Water District board of trustees, praised the company for its response after a recent fire at the landfill and other incidents the department has responded to over the years.

“If they ever have an incident out there — and we all saw it this year, there were a few highly publicized issues; but no one told you not only do they pay taxes and host benefit fee, they also reimburse the Fire Department for costs incurred,” Pineo said. “We went out there a couple times and broke some equipment. They replaced it, no questions asked. I thought it was important everyone knows that, that there’s more to it than what you read in the paper.”

A handful of people also raised concerns and questioned the plan to add another 51 acres to the landfill at the facility. Some asked whether a lot of waste is coming from out of state and questioned whether the landfill expansion will help reduce waste in the long run.

Jeff McGowan, senior district manager at the Crossroads Facility, said that over the last 15 years, on average, 24.5 percent of the waste processed at Crossroads has come from out of state. He also stressed that while the facility has recycling and a gas-to-energy generator, landfills are still necessary to process residuals that cannot be processed any other way.

“I’ve heard how great Waste Management is, and I’m not saying they’re not,” said Gloria Frederick, who said she and her husband have lived next to the 933-acre facility for years. “But I think we need to look at the real issue, the environmental issue.”

Glenn Davis, who owns hangars at Norridgewock Municipal Airport, also said he has concerns about a plethora of birds that have flocked to the area because of the landfill and already are posing a safety hazard at the airport, which he said is about 1,300 feet from the landfill.

“It is a safety issue that affects pilots as well as anyone else around the airport,” Davis said. “It’s created by the landfill. I recognize that happens at every landfill, but it’s nonetheless a problem.”

The DEP expects to make a determination by mid-October of whether the proposed expansion would have a public benefit, a ruling that is necessary before Waste Management can proceed with an application. The company also would need to re-negotiate a host benefit agreement with the town and get approval from the Norridgewock Planning Board before the expansion could happen.

Without the expansion, the landfill is expected to be filled to capacity by 2024. Officials say they are hopeful the expansion can be in place by then to extend the life of the landfill until around 2040.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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