The state's largest trash agency said Thursday that it has suspended indefinitely plans to develop an ash landfill in the eastern Connecticut town of Franklin, or anyplace else in the state.
The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority's proposal to develop a 90- to 100-acre landfill surrounded by a 400-acre buffer zone has faced strong opposition. CRRA officials said the Franklin site, near the Windham town line along the Shetucket River, best met criteria set by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The CRRA said its decision was driven by the comments of state and local leaders. The agency will now "focus on consideration of environmentally sound options for long-term disposal of ash residue ... including disposal at other in-state and out-of-state landfills and other options that the CRRA finds beneficial."
Since December, when it closed the Hartford landfill, the CRRA has been paying to dump ash at a privately owned landfill in Putnam. Sending ash to the Putnam landfill, which is owned by Massachusetts-based Wheelabrator, costs CRRA and the communities it serves more money.
CRRA spokesman Paul Nonnenmacher said that the CRRA board of directors listened to the opposition, which includes Franklin residents, Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and decided to abandon its plans.
"Our board listened to everybody and they said, 'OK, you want us to do something else, we'll do something else,'" Nonnenmacher said. That something else, however, will end up costing the communities that send refuse to the CRRA plants more money, he said.
"I am over the moon, I'm ecstatic, I'm thrilled," said Susan Allen of Franklin, who is part of a group of landfill opponents who call themselves Residents of the Last Green Valley. "I feel like now this property, this pristine environment, can be protected."
Many in Franklin opposed the landfill because they "love the clean, rural aspect" of their community, Allen said. "That's why we live here."
Blumenthal said that the CRRA's decision was "the right thing and the smart thing to do. It's a decision that serves the public interest and environmental values supremely well." He also dismissed suggestions that disposal costs would drive costs higher in coming years.
"There are economic and technological driving forces that will make this means of disposal obsolete," Blumenthal said. Better recycling technologies will emerge to reduce the amount of ash generated, and uses for ash will emerge, such as using it in concrete, Blumenthal said.
To address short-term costs, landfills such as the one operated by Wheelabrator should be regulated, Blumenthal said. "The waste-disposal industry is a utility that needs and deserves regulation in the public interest."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who in a letter to the CRRA dated Wednesday said that she had "deep reservations" about the landfill plan, welcomed CRRA's decision, Rell spokeswoman Donna Tommelleo said.
"She is very gratified CRRA heard her concerns and the concerns of the people of Franklin," Tommelleo said.
The CRRA said it sought to develop a publicly owned ash landfill to save money. Shipping ash to the Putnam landfill adds about 15 percent, or $9, to the $69-per-ton cost that communities pay to dispose of household refuse at CRRA's trash-to-energy plants.
Refuse from 70 cities and town is burned at CRRA's Hartford plant. Ash from Hartford and plants in Preston and Wallingford would have been buried at the Franklin site. The trash agency is preparing bid requests for ash disposal.
The CRRA said it had reviewed 76 sites throughout the state and found that the approximately 500-acre parcel in Franklin was best-suited for the landfill. Follow-up testing and evaluation of the site confirmed that it was the best site, the CRRA said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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