DEP’s job is to educate citizens, towns, and businesses on waste hazards not just punish them! Amity officials get education.
Selectmen Joe Ledger and Glen Clifford, along with Town Manager Darrell Williams, met with Jeremiah Crockett, Forest Service, and Lou Pizzuti from the Department of Environmental Protection at the Amity Town Office. The Town is definitely in violation of several rules and regulations concerning air quality and improper disposal of construction debris and ash. You cannot transport demolition debris to another site for burning.
Lou said that if someone had just called his office for advice none of this would have happened. Even Barry Higgins, our Code Enforcement Officer, was not consulted on the best way to take care of the debris from the fire. Lou said, “Ignorance of the laws is not excuse and no one is above the law – local, state, or federal.” I feel you really cannot expect our Selectmen to know all the laws, but you would expect them to consult the people they hire that are supposed to have the codes and rules.
The good news is that if we follow the list of steps that DEP is asking the Town to take to clean up the sites properly, DEP in Presque Isle will not take enforcement action against the town. However, we must follow the steps exactly with no deviations what so ever.
Lou had already spoken with Tri-Community Landfill to accept the debris. Pine Tree will provide a container for the disposed materials. Because there is a charge by weight, Lou told us that we could take the clean wood (no painted items) off the pile. We can remove the metal items and properly dispose of those items at a salvage yard or something similar. All paint cans must go in the dumpster as well as plastics, painted wood, and ash. He said that most likely we should only need to dig down a couple of inches before we get to clean soil. We need to take before and after pictures; he would like to come inspect the site before removal of the container in case something else needs to go in. The container must be covered and taken to Tri Community Landfill, it is up to them if they need to test it or not. If tested, the best hope is that it comes back OK; if it comes back as hazardous then it will cost a lot more for disposal. Pay the bill, send receipt to DEP, and that will take care of the problem with DEP. However, other state agencies are watching our case to see how well we comply.
Right now open burning is a privilege that now has strict rules and not a rite of passage as of days gone by, it is a dwindling right as air quality concerns rise. Abusing this privilege by burning prohibited materials hurts all of us. Lou sits on a board of New England states that deals with this issue and fears that in the future this privilege will be revoked.
In the future, anyone, the Town or any citizens, who need to dispose of items that may need special care, then call Barry Higgins, our CEO or the DEP office for advice. All are just great people to talk with. Check out the DEP web site for information, new laws that were passed pertaining to computer and TV disposal. They recently had a Hazardous Waste pickup in Houlton. Call first to get a list of items they are accepting, the times and places they are having a pickup, and take your items in then. Their job is not to punish you; their job is to help you do things right in the first place. One short phone call is a lot cheaper than the cost of a clean up operation! Lou stressed repeatedly that one phone call to him or Barry would have saved this town both money and the embarrassment of having to go to court.
I would like to thank Joe Ledger for the questions he asked at the end of the meeting, because of your questions we received a real education on what you can and cannot do for waste disposal. It was a very interesting discussion. Part of the results of that conversation was that I checked out the DEP web site, not one to go to if you only have a few minutes because there is so much to look at. Which led me to the Maine.gov web site, which meant that I spent more time researching than writing Saturday, which led to the late posting this story. What a wealth of information at your fingertips!
Lou also said that the Town pit is part of a large aquifer and it is part of our job to protect it. Selectman Glen Clifford said he thought it was part of the largest aquifer in the world. With two private wells nearby contamination could be a problem. The sand/salt pile needs at the very least a liner to protect the ground. Your editor has heard from several people that we should look into Kenny Estabrook’s old potato house as a sand/salt storage facility. The positive mentioned was that you could load it from the top and remove the sand/salt from the bottom and it would be covered from the elements. The roof and foundation would need checking; I have not seen it up close but it is an idea worth mentioning.
I have been researching web sites concerned with hazardous waste and will provide links for you as soon as possible. There really is a lot to learn and since so many of the citizens stated on the community survey that was taken last fall that the local environment was very important to you that we need to do what we can to keep it clean. At the Amity/Reed Community Development Advisory Committee meeting when the discussion turned to the disposal of old trailers or buildings our Selectmen stated they were sure they now knew what not to do with them!
I would like to state that Amity Matters is not anti-government. All we have ever asked for is accountability in government, starting at the local level.
We would like to thank the non-resident who called DEP about this problem. Had these piles burned with the computers and other materials still in them, I'm not sure the town's pocketbook would be big enough to pay the fines and cleanup costs.