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Where will all our garbage go?

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

The trash disposal situation for Northwest Corner towns has only gotten more dire this year and the reasons for that are sadly outside the town leaders’ control. As covered throughout the process in this newspaper, including last week in a “Looking back” article by Senior Reporter Patrick Sullivan, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) in Hartford that has taken the region’s solid waste for years will be shut down in July 2022.

It’s hard to swallow when the towns here have put so much money and energy into their trash and recycling facilities, especially the Salisbury-Sharon Transfer Station that was finally completed and opened in October 2020 after 25 years of disputes and controversy complicated the process. Residents in the Northwest Corner have generally been highly committed to recycling responsibly. Towns here have won awards for their approaches to recycling, but individual municipalities, 49 of which are served by the MIRA facility, can only affect the beginning of the process. Without a good ending to remediating trash and recycling, the efforts at the beginning of the chain have little or no effect.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) rejected the $330 million proposal to redevelop the facility, disappointingly. What better investment in the state’s longterm health than finding a way to remediate its solid waste within its borders? The alternative, which has been offered by the state as the only option right now, has been adopted by all the Northwest Corner towns except Falls Village, Cornwall and Sharon.

The alternative is that our solid waste will be shipped out of state and likely burned at its final destination. So the negative effects for the environment are multifold: the transportation of the stuff will mean adding burned fuel to the atmosphere, the garbage that is burned or perhaps buried in its new locale will only cause longterm problems for that location.

While the DEEP is trying to come up with some other solution as a real plan, as Sullivan pointed out in his article last week, if there is no legislative mandate that requires the state to take care of its own solid waste, it becomes difficult or impossible to find the money to accomplish it. This is a plea to our legislators to act on this critical need, and pass laws that can create a path for funding to redevelop or build facilities that will do what the MIRA facility did: burning solid waste and converting it to electricity.

Otherwise, what happens when the next facility fails? There are four more in the state that are at full capacity, never a recipe for longterm viability without serious maintenance and restoration as necessary. Does Connecticut want to become a state that depends on the willingness of other states to take all of its garbage? That would be indefensible and wrong.

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