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State environmental officials acknowledge that about 17 percent of the waste sent to the state’s seven existing incinerators is paper that could be recycled. Marc Fournier, a solid-waste consultant and former state inspector, said enforcement of waste bans has been a problem for years and better enforcement is needed to “conserve natural resources and preserve landfill space.”
State officials have issued 124 notices of noncompliance with waste bans in the last four years, although only four fines have been issued. Environmentalists say 124 is a tiny fraction of the true number of violations going on.
Few cases are as illustrative as South Hadley, where residents and town officials took it upon themselves to document hundreds of violations of the waste ban at the South Hadley Landfill.
After the local Board of Health wrote a letter to the state, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of noncompliance to the company that operates the landfill, Advanced Disposal. But the South Hadley Board of Health recently wrote another letter complaining that the state did not issue a penalty. In fact, the letter notes, the day after the company received the notice of noncompliance, a South Hadley resident videotaped a truck dumping an entire load of wood in the landfill.
“It is a joke; what is the point of having a state ban if there are no consequences?’’ asked Suzanne Cordes, clerk of the South Hadley Board of Health. “They need to fine them.”
An official with Advanced Disposal declined comment. Joe Ferson, a DEP spokesmansaid, “Based upon the data we have seen, the waste ban compliance rate [at South Hadley] is unacceptable, and we are investigating the situation.”
“That is not an isolated incidence,’’ said Lynne Pledger, solid waste director for Clean Water Action, one of the many environmental groups against the state’s plan. “Of course if we didn’t put banned material in landfills, there would be more room. . . . The fact is these [new incineration] technologies are going to compete with recycling for paper, cardboard, and plastics.”