A worker flattens trash at the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town. Credit: Carter F. McCall

This Friday, the Maine Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a work session to discuss LD 401: An Act To Preserve State Landfill Capacity and Promote Recycling. The bill would update waste management rules to close a loophole in the definition of Maine-generated waste.

Currently, a loophole in the state’s waste regulations allows out-of-state waste to be funneled through processing facilities in Maine and become classified as Maine-generated waste. This classification makes the waste eligible for disposal in state-owned landfills. LD 401 would close this loophole.

“Unfortunately, Maine has allowed hundreds of thousands of tons of out-of-state wastes to be landfilled in our state simply by changing the legal definition,” John Banks, Natural Resources Director for the Penobscot Nation, said in a discussion with Don’tWasteME. “The result is that we’ve become the dumping ground for states to our south.”

It’s estimated that 40 percent of waste disposed of at the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill originates from outside Maine. Most of the imported waste is classified as construction and demolition debris, or CDD, which has been banned from disposal in Massachusetts landfills. The largest CDD waste stream flows through the ReEnergy processing facility in Lewiston, where more than 90 percent of the inputs originated out-of-state and more than 90 percent of the outputs ended up in Maine’s state-owned landfill. In 2017, approximately 136,000 tons of waste — more than 4,000 tractor-trailers per year — were sent from ReEnergy to the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill.

Other non-Maine materials coming to Maine landfills include sludges containing PFAS, known as “forever chemicals.” Maine currently has no testing of landfill leachate for PFAS levels, and limited protections for communities downstream of where the leachate is discharged.

This bill would ensure waste is effectively tracked from generation point through processing to final disposal point, so that the state knows that what comes into Juniper Ridge is really waste that originates in Maine.

In order to reduce the vast amount of out-of-state waste coming into Maine, the state, through the offices of the state’s Waste Management Agency, decided in 1989 that no more commercial landfills would be allowed in Maine. The purpose of having a state-owned landfill at Juniper Ridge in Old Town is to be able to preserve the state’s landfill capacity for Maine-generated waste. Massive amounts of pseudo-Maine, in reality out-of-state, waste threaten that capacity. If we don’t act to change current practices, Juniper Ridge will be filled in 10 years and the state will be faced with the very expensive and difficult prospect of locating another landfill that can accommodate the needs of our communities.

Bill Lippincott of Hampden is the chair of Don’tWasteME, a group of citizens concerned with the wise use of material resources.