We at DBC believe that Mayor DeMaria's tenure will be a short lived one at City Hall. At this juncture, it appears to be two years and that will be it. There will be a number of debatable moves on the part of the Mayor, but we feel that at the end of the proverbial day (this term/2yr) it will largely boil down to two things: The Wood Waste/New Ventures/Thibeault connection to the Mayor and the budget debates of the upcoming and following fiscal years. It remains to be seen whether our budget committee on the whole will be aggressive with the Mayor such as they had been with the previous administration or remain silent. We at DBC are betting on the latter, untl they are forced to take a position by the public.
To that end, we offer the following:
What is frightening to us at DBC specifically in the August 2006 article that follows from Boston.com, it is the tactics being used by New Ventures versus state oversight and compliance regulators regarding the Newburyport facility. At the end of the article below, we implore you to ask yourself honestly "Does this scenario sound familiar and am I going to sell my children and grand children's good health down the river only to avoid ruffling a few feathers?" I'm pretty sure you'll come to the right answer.
Of particular interest herein is the paragraph that details how New Ventures entered into an agreement to cap the Newburyport landfill and now disputes who is fiscally responsible for a permanent solution to the complaint. The plan for Everett is the same and the results will be the same: "The debris New Ventures shipped in contained sheetrock, which is made up almost entirely of paper and gypsum. When mixed with rain and allowed to rot, those ingredients produce the hydrogen sulfide gas that is sparking complaints from dozens of neighbors."
The same power move is taking place in Everett and perhaps with an added twist that involves the already approved Boston Sludge Plant. If Wood Waste (aka New Venturers) enters into a process that results in also converting some of the wood waste to a sellable product, one of those products found from processing wood waste material is "a municipal sludge binding agent." Wouldn't it be convenient for Wood Waste to have its' biggest customer right next door? I suspect (but have not confirmed) that the binding agent is supplied to the Sludge Plant in order to solidify the "sludge" for final transport and disposal. Can you say "Unending Revenue Stream?" Thiebault can and he is giving diction lessons on that very topic if you listen carefully.
The second noteworthy passage talks about the area of agreement between the state EPA and New Ventures. They both agree that state intervention is the last thing either party wants. As written: ``But if the government takes it over, it will be many times the cost it would be for a private party to do it. That's why the government isn't responding to the political pressure to take it over. If they take it over, they will be facing the same problems we're facing today."
However, you can see that the Newburyport residents are clearly begging for relief and this call for action that just resulted in state intervention began at least as far back as two years ago. Any personal or corrupt motives of politicians and business owners aside, this still leaves the fact that the state and of course, it's entities (EPA etc) follow suit, leaving affected residents largely to their own devices until such time as the state regulator's collective backs are against the door, then they step in only to minimize further liability born by the state. There is little doubt this is where Everett will find itself standing (as a community) a few years from now, unless you the citizen move to stop it and move now.
In a separate online article found through "google" of "New Ventures and Wood Waste", we happened to note that New Ventures position regarding the town of Newburyport's complaint is/was that because there are new demands (noxious odors to be corrected etc) that New Ventures wants all those who used the land before them to be held responsible for their respective contributions to the contamination and remediate same at their own expense, most notably the town itself which New Ventures claims is responsible for 95% of the cost whereas they allowed it to become a dump in the first place.
Put another way, New Ventures enters into an agreement with the town to handle its' landfill and turns around and threatens to sue the town for what they knew they were getting in the first place. It's a pretty coy scam if you ask me. It is interesting that New Ventures takes the position that it is the very people (residents and town of Newburyport) charging them with non compliance that New Ventures, in part, claims is responsible for the original contamination having operated it is a dump for years previous. Am I to believe that New Ventures didn't know that going into the deal?
In the end what you seem to have, at least in Newburyport, is the residents standing mano-y-mano against New Ventures with no zealous backing from the state. This leads me to believe that if your Mayor is indeed planning on helping New Ventures move forward the only way it might be prevented or regulated to the residents satisfaction is through the courts. It has become clear that he intends to take no position on this until forced to do so and in the meantime, has his minions loading the court of public opinion with misleading statements and outright lies.
I'm not a legal scholar by any means, but it seems to me that the only quick protection is in a class action lawsuit, first seeking an injunction to prevent any further dealings until the facts are made public and you may be dealing with the charge that the Mayor is in violation of open meeting laws himself by advancing this environmentally and emotionally charged issue that could affect the lives of many people and doing so behind closed doors. You all need to get this stopped and quick before a deal is inked. Once the initial approval goes forward, you will never stop him. It is in the best interest of the Mayor to keep this issue silent until such time as he can claim to renege will only cost the city hundred of thousand of dollars in litigation. In other words, the residents will get the "it's too late to stop it" excuse, which is why everyone, including your councilors are remaining silent.
In fact, I am not quite sure how it is your executive and legislative branches are allowing this huge pink elephant to remain in the room without even acknowledging its' presence to the residents. The residents have rights, open meeting rights, and an issue of this magnitude should be completely discussed in open forum.
After reading this, my worry, my immense worry, is that the state will only involve itself with Everett's situation to the bare extent necessary. Given that it seems to be that you have no local or state advocacy by way of political and government force, then your only recourse is through a citizen action group. On that note, I might suggest you seek out and ask assistance from one of the larger known environmental advocacy non profits. They love to sink their teeth into fighting big business and big government.
In short it would be a mistake to think any of your political leadership has your best interest and future health concerns of forthcoming generations in mind on this matter. I am sure they will wish to dodge this at all costs. This translates to the foregone conclusion that should you let them even set a corner stone on opening business you will never get them to comply with EPA and OSHA requirements nor will you be able to shut them down for violation without a court battle extending over years, not months.
I submit to you the only recourse is citizen action. You need to organize, in person and in public. Debate under screen names and anonymous does nothing more than inform a few otherwise less than enlightened citizens, but not much more. I suggest at minimum, you post an online downloadable letter, complete with addresses of elected officials, and provide the option for people to print them out, fill in their names (politicians won't respond unless you give them that info) and demand an open meeting on this whole issue.
Otherwise, you may soon be at the ballot box holding your nose, but it appears you'll be doing that anyway. I don't know about you, but I won't be surprised when I see a six figure consulting deal between New Ventures and your current Mayor when the Mayor rejoins private industry. The salary alone could be negated by interest gained on escrow accounts being deposited for bonding purposes or some similar type of account. New Ventures had to put up $3M for Newburyport.
From a business standpoint, it is an investment for Mr. Thibeault. Use the Mayor to get his deal in place then hire him as a six figure consultant. Thibeault would just consider that salary as a business expense necessary to make seven figures in the long run.
If, as rampant speculation holds, that the Mayor did accept hefty amounts of financial backing from Thibeault, then they owned him from the beginning whether he saw this coming or not. He can either play ball with them and have one of two things happen: 1. He gets reelected and the private industry deal still awaits him or 2. He gets dumped after the first election and gets his private industry deal (consulting) a few year sooner. Or he can have what is behind curtain number three - he can disagree with Thibeault, suffer in November 09 (and as we have seen, Thibeault has the time and money to buy elections) and walk away with his gold watch, thank you card and return to the land of the honey dip donut. I'm betting your Mayor already sold his soul, and although most likely regretting it now, sees the bleak handwriting on the dark cold wall - "play ball or suffer the consequences."
You're not going to be able to "unring" the bell. Do not wait for your politicians to get involved - organize, take this into your own hands, and keep a detailed record, you're going to need it.
The Rolling Pin
And now the article:
State is asked to close dumpBy Tim Wacker, Globe Correspondent August 10, 2006
Cloudless skies, temperatures in the 80s, and low humidity usually mean a beautiful day, but William Woodbury had to check the hydrogen sulfide meter outside his Charmanski Drive home last weekend to be sure.
``It all depends on which way the wind is blowing," he said. ``If the wind's blowing from the northwest, it smells like rotten eggs."
That smell comes from the former city dump, Crow Lane, which adds a new dimension to weather forecasts these days for a few hundred homes within a half-mile radius. The dump and the hydrogen sulfide gas it emits have pitted Everett-based building debris disposal company New Ventures LLC against neighbors and government officials incensed about the lack of progress on the firm's plan to cap the landfill.
Last week those officials called on the state Department of Environmental Protection to take over the project.
``It's been extremely frustrating for us," said Newburyport Mayor John Moak . ``We haven't had the ability to get anything done on this except to stop them from bringing in any more material. As much as I wanted New Ventures to get this done themselves, we need to get the air quality up to standards."
The call for state help came after preliminary tests results last week showed hydrogen sulfide gas had reached unhealthy levels, according to federal guidelines. So, Moak, state Representative Michael Costello, and state Senator Steven Baddour signed a letter asking the DEP to take over closing and capping the facility.
But comments this week by the DEP and Attorney General Thomas Reilly's office, which filed suit against New Ventures in February, suggest some state reluctance to take over a problem with costly solutions.
``We've been working with the attorney general's office, pressing for additional action, and we hope that New Ventures will be cooperative and take further actions now," DEP spokesman Joe Ferson said. ``We recognize that this has been an ongoing and difficult project for a number of years."
When New Ventures owner William Thibeault took over the city-run landfill in 2000, it was with the understanding that he'd cap the 60-foot mountain of garbage with a mix of dirt and construction debris specifically permitted under state law for such purposes.
The debris New Ventures shipped in contained sheetrock, which is made up almost entirely of paper and gypsum. When mixed with rain and allowed to rot, those ingredients produce the hydrogen sulfide gas that is sparking complaints from dozens of neighbors.
They have organized themselves on the Internet and every day exchange e-mails over how much the gas bothered them the night before, at what time, and for how long. The e-mails have grown into a two-year log of complaints that are dumped daily into city, state, and New Venture computers as state and local officials have tried to get a better handle on the severity of the problem.
``It's almost a daily occurrence," Woodbury said of the smell. ``It starts at about 3 in the morning and by 7 a.m. it can be gone. It's worst just after it rains. The stuff starts to stink and then it all depends on which way the wind is blowing."
As those complaints piled up, so has government pressure on New Ventures. In December the city ordered New Ventures to stop shipping in the construction debris.
In February, Reilly's office filed suit, threatening New Ventures with millions in fines if the company didn't get rid of the odors and clean up foul water leaching from the landfill into surrounding wetlands. New Ventures has since installed filters to remove the foul-smelling sulfur from the gas, and Reilly's office is waiting to see how well they work.
``If it doesn't work, we'll ask the courts to take further action," said Jim Milkey , chief of environmental protection at Reilly's office. ``We will certainly pursue all options to make sure these problems are solved, but it's our preference that private parties fund the solution to this."
New Ventures is also opposed to a state takeover, said company attorney Chip Nylen. Such a takeover likely means the company would lose a $3 million performance bond New Ventures put up to guarantee the work it promised to do when it signed the deal with the city five years ago.
``We've already spent six figures on this project and we'll be into seven by the time it's through," Nylen said. ``But if the government takes it over, it will be many times the cost it would be for a private party to do it. That's why the government isn't responding to the political pressure to take it over. If they take it over, they will be facing the same problems we're facing today."
Costello is convinced that New Ventures has deliberately delayed the project. Before the city ordered New Ventures to stop the capping project, trucks had been hauling debris in daily for two years.
With construction debris disposal costs reaching upwards of $150 per ton, the capping project was a moneymaker for New Ventures as long as the trucks kept rolling, Costello said.
``They're making a ton of money . . . they want to dump as much in that landfill as possible," he said. ``If Thibeault had been up front from the beginning and closed that landfill, we wouldn't have this problem."
The dump was supposed to close in October, according to the deal that allowed New Ventures to take over the property from the city. Nylen says that's not likely to happen now since the city halted the capping project in December.
Residents already resigned to what will likely be many more months watching which way the wind blows are mostly in favor of a state takeover. They feel greater public involvement will mean more public oversight in a big problem they've been living with for years.
``There has been no oversight of New Ventures, and you have to watch these guys 24 hours a day," said Wildwood Drive resident Ron Klodenski . ``The scrutiny is not as critical if the state is doing the work. We've been watching these guys since this project was first under discussion. We were just thought to be the nervous neighbors back then, . . . but it's turned out to be worse than even our most pessimistic thoughts."
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company