DEP starts paying back Maine municipalities for landfill closure and clean-up costs

August 30, 2013

Jessamine Logan, Maine DEP Director of Communications, 287-5842 (office) or 592-0427

-12 communities will receive a total of $198,296 as the State begins paying off its $4 million debt for costs communities incurred to clean-up or close landfills that threatened public and environmental health-

AUGUSTA – The State is paying back its bills – finally – after suspending payments to twelve communities that fronted the cost of closure and remediation for their local unlined landfills and have been waiting years for partial State reimbursement.

Earlier today, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho presented a $32,912.92 check to Bath City Council Chairman Bernard Wyman, to start to payback on the $800,000 owed to Bath for its landfill remediation. Last week, she presented a $63,315.31 check to Greenville Interim Town Manager, Jack Hart, the first of many more to come for its $1.2 million landfill closure costs. The Towns of Greenville, Shirley and Beaver Cove with Piscataquis County shared in the closure costs and will take a percentage of each check.

Additionally, Aho will present checks next month to Presque Isle, and Caribou, Limestone and Fort Fairfield – the trio of towns that own the Tri-Community Landfill. Presque Isle’s first check will be for $15,837.76 of the $256,125 it’s owed for the State’s portion of closure costs the town incurred. Meanwhile, the Tri-Community Landfill towns, owed a combined $1.77 million for remediation efforts, will receive $72,918.16. The Department sent Caratunk a $13,111 check of $215,000 it’s owed with The Forks and West Forks who shared in the landfill closure costs. The Department plans to send checks biannually until the balance has been paid off completely.

The reimbursements are being funded by a new $2 per ton fee on construction and demolition debris – the only waste stream exempt from any handling fee. That fee, which DEP led to have enacted in the 125th Legislature, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 and is expected to generate nearly $400,000 in revenue this year alone.

Starting in the 1980s, DEP began working with communities to close or clean-up unlined landfills that threatened public and environmental health. The department provided technical assistance and a legislatively-mandated partial match and between 1989-2000, $79 million was given out to assist with the closure of 397 facilities.

Money to support the program ran out in 2000 but since then, DEP has incurred millions more in obligations.

Governor Paul R. LePage applauded DEP’s efforts, which mirror his own to make good on the $484 million the State owes to Maine’s hospitals.

“Maine towns did the right thing when they stepped up to close these unsafe landfills. Now it is time for the State to also do the right thing, and I commend DEP and Commissioner Aho for finding an appropriate way to make sure this obligation to our municipalities is finally met,” the Governor said. “Maine people work hard to pay their bills, and the time is now for their government to do the same.”

DEP Commissioner Patricia W. Aho told the municipalities, “I realize that this is only a portion of the amount owed to you, but please know the Department is committed to paying our bills and will continue sending you payments until the State’s share of your landfill closure and remediation costs has been paid.”

The City of Bath recognizes DEP’s good faith effort to pay back its bills. “We appreciate that DEP is continuing to pay the city the $800,000 owed for the landfill’s remediation,” said Bath City Council Chairman Bernard Wyman.

Prior to 1988, most municipalities in Maine disposed of their solid waste in their own unlined landfill. These dumps, often located in environmentally sensitive areas, can leach contamination that threatens air, land and groundwater and put off nasty odors.

DEP’s closure and remediation program works to cap landfills to evaluate impacts to surrounding areas, contain contaminants, and install gas mitigation and water treatment systems.

Under regulations established in the late 1980s, Maine’s solid waste handling facilities are now state-of-the-art facilities built to be protective of public and environmental health. Additionally, more materials are being diverted from landfills through reduction, recycling, reuse, composting and waste-to-energy.

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left to right Peter Owen, Public Works Director; Bernard Wyman, Bath City Council Chairman; Patricia Aho, Maine DEP Commissioner