High levels of methane gas at a closed-out demolition landfill near the town of Cumberland’s Public Works garage could lead the town to scrap plans to move the garage, and prevent additional housing from being built in the area.

Town Manager Bill Shane reported the situation last Monday to the Town Council, which unanimously endorsed moving a fleet of 26 school buses from the garage to a facility in neighboring North Yarmouth.

The council also unanimously dropped Skillin Road as a potential site for a new Public Works garage.

Part of the landfill closure required the town to install a set of monitored gas vents around the property. Shane said methane levels in recent months were recently as high as 9.5 percent on top of the landfill, creeping up to 16.4 percent closer to the property line of homes along Wyman Way.

Methane is a colorless, odorless gas that can be produced by decaying waste buried in landfills. High concentrations of the gas in confined spaces can displace oxygen and concentrations of 5 percent to 15 percent are considered flammable.

Tests in the basements of those homes have shown no presence of methane, or less than 1 percent, Shane said. He added that he is confident that clay along the boundary line “has created a barrier, so that any methane coming off the site would be stopped primarily at the border.”

Still, additional vents are required, which will reduce the amount of land that would have been available for new housing had the Public Works garage been moved.

“The setback line for these vents basically cuts right through this garage,” limiting the scope of future development, Shane said. “It’s such a small site that it doesn’t really bode well for future development, because most of these areas and vents will have to be monitored probably for at least the next 10 years.”

Along with the extensive monitoring and testing that will be required, construction in those areas would be difficult and costly, negating any future tax revenue impact from development, Shane said. He therefore recommends the town garage remain in place, minus the bus operations and a compost pile.

The cost for the vents, which has yet to be determined, would be borne equally by the town and state, and the town’s plan is subject to approval by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, he said.

Creating the new base for the buses, which in part would free space at the town’s crowded Drowne Road garage, could take two to four years, Shane said, depending on whether North Yarmouth expands its own cramped facility about 3 miles away at 40 Parsonage Road.

If the school buses are moved, municipal operations would continue on Drowne Road, Shane said, although he hopes this summer to move the facility’s compost and brush piles, which neighbors have called eyesores.

Although the town has considered relocating the garage itself to allow expansion of that area’s Village Green residential development, that option now appears to be off the table, too.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or at:

[email protected] @learics

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