A lawsuit filed last month by the Conservation Law Foundation against the owners and operators of the Central Landfill in Johnston for violations of the Clean Air Act is the latest chapter in the volatile history of an operation that by its very nature triggers controversy.
Though resident complaints have been limited in recent months, one longstanding concern of homeowners who live even a few miles from Rhode Island’s only landfill is whether odors, traffic and potentially hazardous emissions into the air or toxins that may have seeped into the ground, even from dumping years before regulations got stricter, impact the value of their property.
Bob Sandberg has lived about half-a-mile from the landfill on Peck Hill Road since 1965 and has kept a close watch on issues.
“It’s been pretty doggone good lately. I have no complaints recently,” said Sandberg. “Obviously they’ve been working on things … and I think they’re taking care of it pretty well now.”
Any odors from the landfill depend on where you live, and the wind doesn’t generally blow the odor toward his house, said Sandberg.
As far as the value of his home, Sandberg isn’t planning to sell, so he hasn’t had to test the real estate market.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court by the Conservation Law Foundation on Dec. 16, Rhode Island LFG Genco, Broadrock Gas Services and the quasi-public R.I. Resource Recovery Corporation are charged with failing to adequately collect gas, failing to operate gas-combustion equipment properly, violating conditions in existing permits and failing to obtain a required operating permit.
“The bottom line is you have pollution coming off the landfill,” said Tricia K. Jedele, vice president and director of the foundation’s Rhode Island office. “You have an inadequate gas-collection system, so it’s failing. The wells are flooded and not operating properly. They’re using combustion equipment inappropriately. The result is we have a lot of emissions of nasty stuff like benzene, hydrogen sulfide, which is the smell like rotten eggs, methane and sulfur dioxide that create serious public health threats.”