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Dartmouth Landfill Capping Proposal Threatens Our Watershed

A recent proposal put forward to the MA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) by the owner of a Dartmouth landfill may potentially harm the Westport River and its environment. This proposal, developed by Boston Environmental Corporation, is to cap a private, 23-acre dump site on Old Fall River Road using low-level contaminated soils, such as coal ash, dredge materials, road sweepings, and catch basin cleanings. This site is unlined and currently contains material that has been dumped there for the past 40 or more years, including PCBs, construction debris, dredge material, and oils, among other things. Leachate containing cyanide, PCBs, arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium has been found to be coming from the site. This site has a long history of violations and noncompliance regarding landfill operations, including the most recent in 2009, when DEP issued an Administrative Order that essentially required the owner to remove all the material from the landfill. The owner has failed to comply, and has instead submitted this new capping proposal to DEP. Dartmouth and many of its residents are presently researching and organizing means to prevent this project from moving forward and many letters have been written to DEP by stakeholders, including WRWA, informing them of the many major concerns they have with this project proposal.

The 23-acre landfill footprint sits within a 94-acre parcel located in the northeastern part of the Westport River watershed. The site is bordered on three sides by wetlands, and is located above the Shingle Island River, which, along with the Copicut Reservoir, composes the upper headwaters of the East Branch of the Westport River. Nearby there are habitats of rare wildlife, rare species, and certified vernal pools. Additionally, the property is adjacent to an aquifer and wellhead protection area. The EPA has identified 5 Westport wells within a 4-mile radius that may be in danger of contamination: Westport Country Day School, St. George School, Well No. 1, Westport Plaza, and Alice A. Macomber Primary School.

The submitted plan, which is awaiting DEP approval, calls for over one million cubic yards of low-level contaminated soils to be dumped on the 23 acres, creating a 65-foot hill with a 5-acre plateau on top. This will require 65 truck loads per day, six days a week, over a three-year period. The roads into the site are narrow and are already heavily trafficked, and an estimated 25 school buses from New Bedford, Dartmouth, Voke, and Bristol Aggie use the proposed route; 16 of the buses have stops along the route.

This proposed capping project creates many concerns for the residents of the region, especially those in Dartmouth and Westport. It threatens drinking water, marshes, rivers, wildlife, and overall quality of life. This is a great opportunity to work together with Dartmouth on a shared issue, and there will be ample occasions in the coming months to learn, listen, and get involved with the movement to prevent the further contamination of our watershed.

For further information or to get involved, please contact Betsy at the WRWA office:

(508) 636-3016, or at b.white@wrwa.com.

Links to community action group – SouthCoast Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow

www.NoPollutionSolution.org or email: SouthCoast.ACT@gmail.com.