Legislation that would allow the state to access and directly manage landfills determined to be a public nuisance was approved today by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Environment.
The bill was filed by State Representative Michael A. Costello and State Senator Steven A. Baddour in response to conditions at Crow Lane landfill in Newburyport, which has been a threat to public health and environmental safety for years. In that time, residents have been affected by rotten egg odors and hydrogen sulfide gases emitted from Crow Lane.
Representative Costello, Senator Baddour, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Laurie Burt all testified in favor of the bill at today’s hearing, which was chaired by Representative William Strauss (D – Mattapoisett) and Senator Anthony Petruccelli (D – East Boston).
“This bill will ensure that no other community in Massachusetts gets stuck the way that Newburyport has been stuck with this problem,” Costello said. “This legislation would allow the state to provide immediate relief to residents affected by the public nuisance and then go to court later to determine how to recover costs.”
“The residents of the Crow Lane neighborhood have suffered long enough”, said Senator Baddour. “The DEP must be given the power to intercede with problematic landfills to protect the health and quality of life for not only the citizens of Newburyport – but throughout the entire Commonwealth.”
The landfill operator, the state and the city have been entrenched in a legal battle for years over the conditions at Crow Lane. Costello and Baddour consulted with officials from DEP and General Court counsel and staff to write the legislation, which would bring landfill regulations into alignment with those for hazardous waste sites in the state.
“Newburyport demonstrates what goes wrong with a landfill that threatens public health and environmental safety,” said Commissioner Burt, “and how we are handicapped under solid waste laws in ways that we are not under hazardous waste laws.”
“It makes sense to bring solid waste sites into line with how we handle hazardous waste,” she added. Mayor Holaday spoke about the health problems that Newburyport residents have experienced as a result of the landfill including sinus pain, stomach aches, headaches and sleepless nights.
“I could go on and on about the violations that have occurred at the landfill. There’s no relief to us as a community,” Holaday said. “This bill gives the state the kind of authority it needs to resolve the problem. We can’t go through a nine-month, a 12-month court case while the community suffers.”