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Teresa Gerade: Playing whack-a-mole with the NEK environment

This commentary was written by Teresa Gerade, an advisory board member and data analyst of the Vermont-Canadian volunteer environmental activist group DUMP, LCC, located in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on the shores of Lake Memphremagog. She resides in Newport.

The landfill in Coventry is contaminating the groundwater in the Lake Memphremagog watershed. That statement is not my opinion, it is a fact. (according to the May 2022 report prepared by Waite Heindel Environmental Management for NEWSVT).

The Department of Environmental Conservation in this beautiful state of Vermont is playing a game of whack-a-mole with our sacred Northeast Kingdom. Here’s why I say this:

On Aug. 18, I participated in a public meeting hosted by the Department of Environmental Conservation that focused on a request by the owners of the Coventry Landfill (New England Waste Services of Vermont, Inc.) to install a system that will remove only some contaminants from only one of the drains that collects and discharges groundwater from underneath the landfill. “The Installation is anticipated to result in a decreased concentration of contaminants of concern within downgradient groundwater.”

According to the design documentation, this discharge, still containing a detectable level of contaminants, will continue to flow into the surrounding wetlands, into the Black River and Lake Memphremagog. 

This is not the only location where contaminated groundwater has been detected. Other drains have detectable levels of contamination, and the Department of Environmental Conservation has requested that the contaminated liquid from those drains be transported offsite to a wastewater treatment facility to remove some of the contaminants. 

The widespread contamination problem is being addressed much like the game of whack-a-mole is played. See contamination and “whack it,” only to have it pop up again in another place. We don’t know where it will pop up next and how (or if) they will “whack it.” 

Meanwhile, the mountain of trash is growing ever higher, applying increasing pressure on the protective linings and covers that contain the trash. Even the Environmental Protection Agency admits that all landfill liners will eventually leak. The contamination is spreading. How many more millions of tons of trash will be dumped in the Northeast Kingdom? When will they stop polluting the NEK? Will they stop? 

In the state of Vermont, the Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for developing a solid waste plan that protects the environment and the health of those that inhabit it. We can’t wait any longer. They must do it now! They cannot continue to sacrifice the Northeast Kingdom’s environment. 

There is still time to voice your concerns by attending a virtual meeting (meeting ID: 244 597 309 903; passcode: 2kdAD7) on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 6:00 p.m. 

You can also submit a public comment via email on or before Sept. 29 4:00 p.m. to [email protected] regarding Permit # OL510-2022-2. Tell the Department of Environmental Conservation that there should be no treatment or discharge of contaminated liquid in the Memphremagog Watershed.

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