Mr. John Casella, whose multi-million-dollar company stands to gain a half-billion more in revenue by expanding the 78-acre Coventry landfill by another 50 some acres in the next 10 years, has made the fabricated case for this expansion in a recent letter to the editor. By offering an unsubstantiated defense of its waste management operations and by attacking the opponents of the landfill expansion, including the Canadians who have worked diligently to protect the interests of the people whose drinking water source is Lake Memphremagog, Mr. Casella undermines his own credibility.

Mr. Casella even goes so far as to blame Vermont consumers and their purchases for the current threat posed by toxic landfill leachate in the poorly sited Coventry landfill. In fact, all American consumers, until recently, were unaware of the danger posed by PFAS chemicals used in manufacturing a huge range of household products purchased and used by millions of Americans during the past half-century. Mr. Casella’s tactics, sadly, are those popular in American politics these days: deny, deflect, distort, attack. It becomes necessary to respond point by point to his misstatements in order for the public to have a fair and truthful understanding of the issues at play in the Coventry landfill expansion.

“Without the landfill we would be putting our health and environment at risk,” Casella says. On the contrary, without a viable alternative, more safely sited away from water bodies and using technologies designed to adequately treat landfill leachate contaminants, making them less harmful, we continue to put our health and environment at risk.

Landfill opponents “pretend landfills shouldn’t exist” charging them with “emotion rather than clear-eyed fact.” We are not pretending. Our knowledge and emotions compel us to action. Landfills shouldn’t exist, not when other technologically advanced systems are in use in many other countries in the world, managing and disposing of waste, including harmful pollutants found in household and other refuse. What “facts” has Casella offered to support his claims?

“Landfills are highly regulated, extensively engineered, relentlessly permitted ….” This may be true, but what evidence can you provide that your practice meets all permitting conditions, that regulations and engineering are sufficient to protect the public and environment? Even the EPA states “all landfill liners eventually leak.” I would check your own documentation, as I have done, to be sure you have not overestimated your ability to comply with conditions and limits set in the permit process.

“Landfills do not manufacture PFAS,” the forever class of harmful chemicals currently under scrutiny by the state and federal government. I don’t know anyone who says landfills manufacture PFAS, but landfills are proven to be among the top four contributors to PFAS contamination, along with wastewater treatment plant effluent and sludge; manufacturers and industrial users of PFAS; and firefighting practice and response sites.

“The ANR and Act 250 have reviewed volumes of data to determine the safety of WWTPs.” True, and they have stated publicly many times over that no WWTP in Vermont is currently engineered or equipped to effectively treat PFAS among other leachate toxins. Yet leachate is still being “treated” in WWTPs at Montpelier and Plattsburgh and flushed into Lake Champlain.

“Whether or not WWTPs accept landfill leachate … they discharge PFOA and PFAS.” This is a deliberately misleading statement. WWTPs accepting leachate discharge PFAS at higher volumes than WWTPs that do not. (The statement alone makes me wonder if Mr. Casella knows that PFOA is one of the many chemicals in the PFAS family?)

“Wastewater discharged into the lake from the Canadian’s side has the potential to be significantly more harmful.” It is outrageous that Mr. Casella offers no evidence to support this claim. What discharge is occurring where? Can he name the location of a WWTP discharging into Memphremagog or a landfill sited within hundreds of feet of a river flowing into the lake?

“Canadian friends at MCI and U.S. allies at DUMP may be the real threat.” “We urge you to do your research and understand the science before believing the scare tactics of anti-landfill groups.” Mr. Casella, we urge you to do your research and understand the science. Stop spreading misinformation and false assurances that are not supported by current scientific and academic communities, including the EPA (hardly a radical organization), or the cutting edge technologies in waste management and disposal.

Mr. Casella asks us to “refocus our passion and resources” and urges “our neighbors in Canada do their part to protect the environment.” Agreed, we all bear responsibility. Now that we consumers are no longer ignorant about the dangerous chemicals used in manufacturing, including PFAS, we can choose to purchase green products and no longer be “part of the problem” as Mr. Casella charges. But first, manufacturers need to do more since they have control over what chemicals or packaging materials are used in producing their goods. And Casella Industries can agree to discontinue its practice of accepting up to 600,000 tons of hazardous household, industrial and demolition waste annually, over 30% of which comes from out of state.

The greatest benefit to health and environment will come when the Casella corporation partners with the state of Vermont to reduce and recycle the waste stream and develop state of the art waste treatment and disposal plants capable of rendering less harmful the contaminants in the waste we Vermonters produce. Until then, Canadians, MCR and MCI, and DUMP will continue to do their part to protect the environment, including Lake Memphremagog, and to influence legislators to do the same.

Peggy Stevens lives in West Charleston.

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