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Protesters and local landfill operators argue over out-of-state trash leading to Penobscot River pollution

Caravan of protesters want to end out-of-state trash entering Maine landfills.
Caravan of protesters want to end out-of-state trash entering Maine landfills.(Owen Kingsley)
Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 4:48 PM EDT
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OLD TOWN, Maine (WABI) - On this Earth Day, dozens of environmental activists met at the University of Maine to lead a caravan to Old Town in protest of out-of-state waste coming to the Juniper Ridge Landfill.

“The promise was there would be no out-of-state waste put in there, ever. That’s how it was sold to us, those were lies. 200,000 tons per year come in from out of state,” said Ed Spencer, Vice Chairman Don’t Waste Maine.

Folks who are protesting today say they’re worried the excess trash has led to polluting the Penobscot River through the leachate, the liquid discharge from the landfill.

Representatives with Don’t Waste Maine and the Penobscot Nation say there are efforts to create a new law to ban out-of-state trash from being put into Maine landfills.

“We are also working on adding language to bills to test for the discharge into the river, and it’s really been something that’s been flying under the radar, and it has deeply, deeply wounded our Penobscot River for generations, and it is time to do something about it,” said Maulian Dana, Penobscot Nation Elder.

“The landfill is not the source of pollution in the Penobscot River,” said Joe Fusco, Vice President of Casella Waste Systems.

Casella Waste Systems, the operators of the Juniper Ridge Landfill, say claims of 200,000 tons of out-of-state waste coming to the landfill are false.

They add out-of-state waste is incinerated in Maine, and the ashes are what enters the landfill, which is legal, but also what activists are trying to change.

They also say there were no promises made about out-of-state trash.

As far as pollution, they say their leachate, the liquid discharge from the landfill, is treated to state standards before entering the river.

“Most of their message is really pure theater. They misrepresent a lot of facts, and they make outright false statements. I think the true celebration of Earth Day, if you will, would be to recognize that we have a very sophisticated infrastructure in place to handle Maine’s waste. And this infrastructure in essence protects public health and safety, protects environmental health and safety, and makes modern life possible,” said Fusco.

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