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Canadian Opponent To Coventry Landfill: 'We're Just Getting The Leachate'

A man stands above a landfill pit.
Jane Lindholm
VPR File
Joe Gay, an engineer with Casella Waste Systems, stands before the Coventry landfill.

Last week, a proposal to expand Vermont’s only landfill moved a step forward: A state environmental board approved an Act 250 permit for the controversial project.

The landfill is in Coventry, near Lake Memphramagog, and the expansion plan has faced local opposition, particularly from citizens concerned about the impact it could have on water quality in the lake.

However, the opposition is not just in Vermont. Many Canadian citizens are also opposed, because Lake Memphramagog – which spans the Vermont-Quebec border – is a drinking water source for thousands of Quebec residents.

Robert Benoit, the president of Memphramagog Conservation Inc., a group that’s opposed to the project, said the primary concern for Canadians is runoff from the landfill, known as leachate. He said other issues, like odor, truck traffic and dust, are larger concerns to Vermonters near the site.

"I'm an hour drive from the site, so the odor don't affect us, but the leachate affect us, and you know, the garbage are United States' garbage, and we're just getting the leachate," Benoit said.

"... the garbage are United States' garbage, and we're just getting the leachate." — Robert Benoit, Memphramagog Conservation Inc. President

VPR's Henry Epp spoke to Robert Benoit of Memphramagog Conservation Inc. Listen to their full conversation above.

The Act 250 permit allows Casella, the landfill owner, to operate the site until 2028. The permit requires Casella to hire a contractor to monitor odor and inspect incoming trash,as VTDigger reported last week.

Casella Vice President Joe Fusco told VPR last week the company is pleased by the decision, but wouldn't talk about specific requirements in the permit. Even with the permit, the expansion can't begin due to a pending appeal to the landfill's operating permit.

Meanwhile, opponents in Quebec are still looking to other avenues to challenge the project. Benoit's group made an appeal to theCommission for Environmental Cooperationearlier this month, which deals with cross-border environmental issues in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. However, Benoit does not expect speedy action from the group.

"We're not expecting overnight answer there, but I think we have to fight at every level we can," he said. "That's very clear in our mind here in Canada."

Liam Elder-Connors contributed reporting to this story.

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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