A temporary compromise reached by lawmakers means Maine communities are once again burying sewage sludge in the state-owned landfill at Juniper Ridge near Old Town, and don't have to pay extra to haul the waste to New Brunswick, Canada.
BY PENELOPE OVERTON, STAFF WRITER
Maine’s sludge disposal crisis is over for now, but the search continues for a permanent solution.
Maine communities are once again burying sewage sludge in the state-owned landfill at Juniper Ridge near Old Town and no longer have to pay extra to haul the waste to New Brunswick, Canada. The last truckload of Maine sludge headed to Canada on July 7.
“Our last bill was down, but we should see the full effect in our next bill,” said Dave Hughes, superintendent of the Scarborough Sanitary District. “We’re better off than most. The district has reserves, so we didn’t have to raise rates right away, but it was hugely expensive, and reserves don’t last forever.”
Before the sludge crisis, Scarborough was paying Casella Waste Systems, the contractor that operates Juniper Ridge for Maine, about $400,000 a year to dispose of its sludge at the state landfill. After Casella started trucking sludge to Canada, Hughes put Scarborough’s annual disposal rate at $600,000.
Casella started hauling sludge to Canada in February after it concluded that the landfill could no longer safely accept sludge from its three dozen municipal customers. That much wet material posed a threat to the landfill’s structural integrity, putting the pit itself in danger of collapse, Cassella said.
Casella blamed the sludge crisis on two new laws intended to protect Maine’s environment: one prohibited the use of sludge as an agricultural fertilizer due to elevated levels of potentially dangerous forever chemicals and the other banned out-of-state waste from Maine landfills.