April 2, 2009

Leaky landfill to cost taxpayers millions more

Though the city dump has been closed for more than a decade, taxpayers are still paying for it.

And the price is going to get a whole lot higher.

What’s still pushing up costs is the necessity of purchasing groundwater rights to nearby property that’s been contaminated by the toxic stew that leached out of the landfill in the years before it was encased beneath layers of plastic, soil and sand.

The ultimate tab? Nobody knows, except that officials say it’s sure to be millions of dollars.

“I really can’t get my arms around the final numbers,” said Dale Clift, the city attorney.

Under the consent agreement the city signed with state Department of Environmental Protection in 1995, it is required to buy the groundwater rights to any property contaminated by material that’s spread from beneath the dump.

It also has to monitor the underground water for at least another 15 years and probably much more to determine the extent of the pollution.

Clift said the material has continued to spread ever since the landfill’s forced closure, but it appears from monitors that the plume’s growth may be slowing.

Already, though, it’s grown so extensive that at one point, Bristol’s underground pollution has mixed with another plume spreading out from an old Southington dump.

Complicating matters is the difficulty of figuring out how much the groundwater rights to a property should cost.

There’s a court fight going on now between one nearby plot owner, Tilcon Minerals, and the city, which is racking up major legal bills in pursuit of the lowest possible payment for 25 unimproved acres with spoiled groundwater.

The case has already gone to the state Supreme Court, but it’s back in a trial court now.

Tilcon is seeking $742,000 from the city. Bristol is offering $320,000, Clift said. A settlement isn’t even close.

But the case points to the magnitude of the entire tab.

John Smith, a Board of Finance member, said the Tilcon case numbers are “like throwing a basketball in the ocean” compared to the big picture.

City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said Bristol has $200,000 set aside to help pay the tab. But it’s a drop in the bucket, officials admitted.

The payments are likely to be “pretty substantial” before the closure is finally completed, Klocko said.

Both Smith and Klocko said the city is on the hook for millions.

The city closed the landfill in 1997 after using it for half a century as a dumping ground for everything from household trash to oil drums.

At the time, officials worried about the expense involved in buying groundwater rights, but it’s not clear anyone realized just how extensive the problem would become.

Clift said the city faces “a very complex litigation matter” in dealing with the issues raised. It has hired an environmental law firm to handle the case.

Klocko said that given the anticipated costs of resolving the litigation, the city should get ready financially.

“The bottom line is it would behoove us to set funds aside,” Klocko said.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Anonymous said...

A whole host of State and Federal agencies and officials have culpability in this extremely expensive price tag to the taxpayers of Bristol.

The City followed exactly what the agencies told them to do in closing a landfill. Now, it seems they did not have the proper details, knowledge and procedures at the time and the city pays for their mistakes.

Keep passing those laws in Hartford and Washington without financial remediation. It really is nuts.

Anonymous said...

Wow I didn't know Tilcon was suig Bristol. Maybe that is the reason why the city contract for road and sidewalk repairs all go to Laverio, D'Amato and Carpenter...and not Tilcon.

Anonymous said...

This story stinks! ;o) LOL!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Frank!

Anonymous said...

'In wine there is wisdom.
In beer there is freedom
In water there is bacteria.'

In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. coli) - bacteria found in feces.
In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop.

However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.

Water = Poop,
Wine = Health.

Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of ship*.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable