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Machias Valley News Observer, May 30, 2009

NEWS with VIEWS

by Nancy Oden

More Garbage Threats

Citizens of Washington County fought for three years to beat back the proposed toxic ash dump in Township 30, and we did. That was twenty years ago.

Some of the same citizens fought for three years to beat back the proposed toxic dump in Township 14, and we did. That was just last year.

But the garbage wars never end because taking people’s garbage and disposing of it elsewhere is very lucrative. Garbage dealers look for places to dump, so they’re always interested in Maine and Washington County.

Covanta, a large New Jersey corporation specializing in burning garbage, recently bought the Jonesboro tree-burning incinerator, which exists to generate electricity for cities to our South. So far the incinerator is still burning our trees, and we’ve heard nothing about future plans.

Covanta does make electricity from burning garbage, and as with the incinerators in Orrington and Biddeford, generating electricity is their official excuse for building incinerators.

But the real money is in taking other people’s garbage. All these garbage-burning incinerators charge hefty fees, called tipping fees. Most garbage from here goes to the Orrington incinerator.

According to people who live near existing garbage incinerators, they are plagued with really dirty air and water, fires, smells, garbage truck traffic, and a general downturn in the area’s desirability.

If Covanta plans to burn garbage in Jonesboro, they will have to apply to the State to burn solid waste. Citizens can intervene in such an application, as we have done in the past. So we shall see.

But there’s yet another garbage threat. Two Democrats — Rep. Deschene and Sen. Goodall — have introduced a Bill in the Maine Legislature to allow commercial garbage dumps to be built wherever the would-be developers own the land.

Now here’s the important part. While we were fighting to stop the poisoning of Township 30’s woods and waters, we got a law passed in Augusta in 1989 that said, basically, no more commercial dumps and existing commercial dumps could not expand.

This new Bill, LD 760 (look it up at www.maine.gov) is basically an attempt to give one part of the State — the Old Town area — a break from out-of-state garbage while leaving everyone else in Maine more vulnerable to dumping or burning out-of-state garbage.

LD 760 allows, once again, the creation of commercial, as opposed to publicly-owned, garbage dumps. This Bill cannot be allowed to stand.

Why? In 1989 we convinced the Legislature that municipally-owned or state-owned dumps, consisting of that which could not be composted or recycled, were more in keeping with the public welfare.

It was believed then, as now, that out-of-state garbage corporations bringing in as much garbage as they could haul and dumping it in our woods and waters was not desirable for Maine’s people or wildlife or fisheries.

The few commercial dumps left in Maine have proven the case as they fill up their dumps with out-of-state filth as quickly as possible, then apply for expansions. This Bill, LD 760, would give them permission to expand as far as they wanted.

No, we can’t have that Bill passed, because the New Jersey garbage guys would be back amongst us before you know it.

Oops, they already are! Google “Covanta” to find out more about them. Could it be they knew about this Bill? Who would have told them?

Well, like drugs, there’s a great deal of money to be made in that business.

Please call, email, write quickly your representative and senator in the Maine Legislature (again, at www.maine.gov) to vote down LD 760.

This Bill was moved through the Natural Resources Committee in amazing secrecy, and was not discovered by citizens until last Thursday when it passed out of Committee with an Ought to Pass recommendation. This means the Legislature could vote on it any minute, so contacting your representative and senator and urging them most strongly to kill LD 760 is immediately urgent.

I would not have known some of this without the help of my fellow anti-out-of-state garbage activists in different parts of Maine. We’re always on alert and have been fighting quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, for many years to keep out-of-state garbage dealers from filling up Maine’s woods and waters with their garbage and toxic waste.

Other parts of Maine weren’t as strong as were the citizens of Washington County, so a few have huge dumps where garbage trucks come in 24 hours a day with loads of unknown materials.

For example, what’s in those trucks coming from Colorado and dumping in the monstrous Norridgewock, Maine dump? Nobody’s checking with a Geiger counter. Really, no one’s checking at all.

Please call your senator (Raye, for Washington County) and your state representative right now to spare us more dump fights in the larger garbage wars.

What’s the answer? Compost all food and yard wastes, re-use and recycle all possible, which would leave very little to dispose of.

If we put a law on ourselves in Maine which said we had to compost and recycle everything possible, we could apply this law to all waste materials coming into Maine.

Then the hundreds of trucks coming over the Kittery Bridge every day with millions of tons of from-away garbage would stop coming, and towns with dumps could begin to recover.

Such a shame that we citizens don’t get to make the decisions that affect our lives. Let’s change that by getting involved in local, county, and state government decision-making.

The Fourth of July is coming up soon. Independence and Democracy are what citizens fought and died for. The least we can do is keep up the fight. Right here.

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