Trash and waste wait to be compacted on the hills of the Juniper Ridge Landfill on Jan. 19, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Amy Roeder, D-Bangor, represents House District 23 in the Maine Legislature. Ambureen Rana, D-Bangor, represents House District 21. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, represents House District 22. Joe Perry, D-Bangor, represents House District 24. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, represents Senate District 9.

No matter what corner of the state we call home — whether it’s a town where dairy farmers are struggling to deal with contaminated grazing land, or the towns and cities where families question whether the food they buy at the grocery store is safe — Mainers want to do what’s right to protect our environment, economy and health. That’s why, as your representatives in Augusta, those of us who served last year voted for and supported LD 1911 and LD 1639, two bills designed to protect the health of Maine communities. We voted against the continued practice of spreading biosolid sludge (treated human waste) contaminated with harmful forever chemicals on farmland where it ultimately enters our food and water.

Now that Maine is leading the fight to keep “forever chemicals” from poisoning our land, food and people, a company that’s been making a profit from handling the contaminated waste wants us to believe that it’s against our interest. That company is trying to scare us into believing we don’t have a choice but to continue to allow it to profit by contaminating our lands and bodies. The city of Bangor shouldn’t fall for it.

We are aware that some city officials have voiced grave concerns about the status of the “sludge crisis.” We are concerned that some information being presented to the public from the city of Bangor mirrors that of Casella’s, the company at the heart of this manufactured crisis. Some have suggested that the Legislature is not aware of the dire nature of the situation and that its actions in passing these two bills last year were well-intentioned but ignorant and that the bills were flawed.

We can assure you these sentiments aren’t true. If you look at Casella’s own data, it will show no significant increase in sludge over the months since LD 1911 was implemented. Since LD 1639 just went into effect, it’s not possible to show there has been a significant decrease in bulky waste due to the law. As our colleague Rep. Michael Sobeleski, R-Phillips, said last week of LD 1911, “[This] was a necessary legislation. We can’t knock it. We had to have it. We couldn’t keep putting that stuff on the ground.”

During a briefing in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on March 8, Casella attempted to characterize their actions as “recycling” construction debris. In reality, they divert it to a sorting facility, where some materials are removed for recycling but the majority is sent to the Juniper Ridge Landfill to be mixed with sludge. Casella talks of “beneficial biosolids” in an argument to sell and spread PFAS contaminated human waste on our land.

LD 1911 and LD 1639 affect Casella’s $1 billion business. Casella is paid by the ton to landfill out-of-state construction debris. LD 1911 is preventing Casella from selling PFAS contaminated sludge-derived compost in Maine. Both these laws hit Casella in the wallet.

Another disturbing moment from that briefing was when Casella admitted that it was well within its rights to cancel municipal contracts but had magnanimously decided not to. Casella has a virtual monopoly on waste management in this state, and the company made it clear in last week’s briefing that it wasn’t afraid to use that monopoly to intimidate their customers into accepting their terms. Interestingly, when Casella officials were called before the Legislature to explain the “crisis,” they somehow found a solution to the issue quickly. Apparently, this has not been communicated to Bangor city officials.

We urge Bangor residents to unequivocally state that for-profit vendors should not be the determinant of our health and environment. We will stand by the council and city officials if they choose to hold Casella accountable. That being said, we will hold Casella accountable, regardless.