A bulldozer caps part of the landfill that is at capacity at the Waste Management Crossroads facility in Norridgewock in August 2018. Morning Sentinel file

NORRIDGEWOCK — Discussions about expanding the Crossroads Landfill became tense Thursday night as planning board members convened online to review a proposal to expand.

In a 4-1 vote after two hours of discussion, the item passed.

The board held two public meetings prior to Thursday’s review.

At Thursday’s meeting, held on Zoom, Norridgewock’s Planning Board reviewed the Waste Management Disposal Service of Maine’s site plan application and shoreland zoning application to expand the landfill — the second-largest in the state — at 359 Mercer Road, off U.S. Route 2.

The expansion plan, known as Phase 14, previously drew concern from some residents regarding air quality, groundwater protection, recycling and visibility.

The proposed expansion would not require major changes in infrastructure, and the amount of waste coming into the landfill is not expected to increase, according to Waste Management officials.

They said the liner systems, designed to last hundreds of years, would occupy 48.6 acres at the 933-acre landfill for textile diversion, hazardous materials and composting.

The project would likely be in operation through 2037. Without an approval, officials have said that the landfill will reach capacity by 2024. Adding acreage would allow the landfill to meet the future needs of the communities served.

The Crossroads Landfill is owned by Waste Management Disposal Services of Maine and serves more than 50 communities in central and western Maine. Operations include single-sort recycling, electronic waste diversion, battery diversion, cardboard recycling, wood-waste recycling, beneficial tire reuse, waste evaluation, sustainability consulting and a renewable landfill gas-to-energy plant.

The Crossroads’ Renewable Landfill Gas-to-Energy Plant has been capturing gas released from waste decomposition to generate electricity since 2009. It powers two 20-cylinder Caterpillar engines. Annually, the system collects and burns 470 million standard cubic feet of landfill gas.

Pending approval from Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corp of Engineers, construction would likely begin in May and be completed in 2023. Under the terms of the contract, Waste Management must present any addendums to the application to the Planning Board.

Previously, Waste Management officials said they had conducted a sound test, which showed the decibel level would be below Maine DEP standards.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board reviewed the findings of fact, conclusions and notice of decision, which can be found on the town’s website. The nine-page document outlines the proposals and what steps are required for approval and what Waste Management has done to prepare and field community concerns.

According to the document, the expansion will not cause “unreasonable soil erosion” or a reduction in the land’s capacity to hold water. The project will have no adverse impacts on wetlands or any waterbodies and will provide for adequate stormwater management and sewage disposal.

Floodplain areas will not be impacted, and the expansion will not result in air or water pollution or issues with groundwater quality.

Discussions at previous public hearings became tense when residents questioned how complaints about the smell coming from the landfill are handled, how often the Planning Board will be updated by Waste Management and the potential health impacts.

In response to inquiries from residents, Waste Management put their odor complaint policy into writing and provided a clearer explanation on what the protocol is.

Beginning next year, complaints made about the landfill and how the complaint was addressed will be shared in the town’s annual report.

In this annual update, Waste Management must provide the town with a report summarizing construction progress relating to Phase 14 and its five cells, as well as the prior year’s operations, any proposed changes in operations for the upcoming year, and any complaints from the public or other agencies about Waste Management’s operations and how they have been resolved.

Planning Board member Margaret O’Connell asked the board to consider making complaints more widely shared, like on the town’s Facebook page or website, and initially suggested sharing these complaints on a bi-monthly basis, or six times a year.

“People just want information without anybody knowing that they were looking at these odor complaints,” O’Connell said.

When asked, Jeff McGowan, senior district manager at Crossroads Landfill, said that he would provide the log if community members inquired.

Other members of the board did not back O’Connell’s proposed amendment.

“We’re a town of about 3,500 with thousands that move through daily,” said Joshua Chartrand, a member of the board. “During the public hearings, very few people spoke out about this issue, so we have to put some relevancy to fact.”

Charlotte Curtis said that she previously worked for the town office. During her time there, she said that she received more complaints about manure being spread than odor complaints from Waste Management.

By the end of the meeting, a few minor adjustments had been made to update some of the language in the agreement. All but O’Connell were in favor.

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