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Franklin Site No Place For Toxic Landfill

KEVIN RYAN and EDITH PRAGUE

March 22, 2009

In this era of heightened environmental awareness, it seems counterintuitive to knowingly generate additional pollution, destroy natural resources and contaminate drinking water. The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority proposes all of the above with one project an ash landfill in Franklin.

The CRRA wants to build an ash landfill dangerously close to a pristine natural area in Franklin. Although the proposed landfill would be placed where a gravel operation currently is located, it also sits atop a local aquifer that provides pure drinking water to many residents and adjoins the banks of the Shetucket River, which supplies drinking water to the nearby town of Sprague.

If built, the landfill would be used to dispose of ash that is highly toxic, fouled with poisons including dioxin and heavy metals. Ash landfills are considerably more hazardous than regular landfills because the toxins are so much more concentrated in ash than regular trash.

Fresh water is a valuable resource and is becoming increasingly scarce. It is unconscionable to suggest building atop a drinking water source knowing toxins could seep into the supply. We will one day need all of this water.

Precautions are supposedly incorporated into the CRRA's plan to prevent adverse effects from the disposal of the ash, including a system of drainage and liner layers to keep the ash contained, but these are not adequate. According to most experts, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all landfills eventually leak.

Besides leakage, ash particles may get into the atmosphere as the waste is transported through the area and when the ash is dumped in the landfill. These ash particles can contain toxins including lead, cadmium and arsenic, which are known to cause serious health problems, especially in children.

Even the logistics of this proposed dump defy logic. Route 32, a rural two-lane road, is ill-equipped to accommodate 60 ash-laden dump trucks per day to and from Route 2. The prospect for pollution, congestion, and wear and tear on that road is unthinkable.

The proposed landfill abuts the Shetucket River, which is part the Quinebaug-Shetucket National Heritage Corridor, often called "The Last Green Valley." The river is a prized spot for trout fishing and the only river in eastern Connecticut stocked with Atlantic salmon. This area is also home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

At a time when we are expending so many resources to repair impaired waterways and save endangered species, it is unexplainable why we would jeopardize this resource.

We do need to dispose of our waste, but that does not justify the health risks, environmental destruction or drinking water contamination that this project could bring. Some officials have suggested that the trash authority could recycle and find uses for the ash that do not involve any landfill.

Residents of Windham have already passed a resolution to oppose the CRRA plan and the state must join that effort. We need legislation prohibiting the trash authority from condemning, purchasing, leasing, accepting or taking title to, using, or otherwise acquiring any portion of the land in Franklin for the purpose of establishing an ash residue disposal area.

It is time to be more creative about waste disposal. We need a long-term solution that does not involve this site in Franklin or any of our other towns. And if we must continue these outdated policies, we would call attention to a suitable site in Putnam, available for some 15 years into the future.

As we understand it, the CRRA can't satisfy the DEP requirement to show compelling need for a facility at the Franklin site, so the trash authority needs to reconsider this proposal.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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