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June 26, 2013

Groveland should rally against landfill plan

Groveland should take a very close look at a proposal to cap an old quarry with massive quantities of “clean fill” imported from Boston and surrounding cities.

There’s been a handful of Newburyporters trying to rally Grovelanders, and with good cause — the same man who brought Newburyport a decade of acrimony and woe is the same man behind the Groveland proposal.

William Thibeault, who operates a demolition disposal business in Everett along with several other businesses, bought the Newburyport Crow Lane landfill in 2000 and capping operations began in 2004. It didn’t take long for neighbors to start registering complaints about noxious smells. Nor did it take long for the city to record numerous violations by Thibeault’s company of the capping agreement.

Over the course of the next few years, the city would go head-to-head with Thibeault over a number of problems at the site, at times shutting it down entirely due to an overwhelming stench coming from the landfill. Neighbors suffered from a variety of health problems, and begged the city and the state to help them.

The response from Thibeault and his company was often petulant, dodging and woefully inadequate. Time and time again, city officials reported having a hard time dealing with Thibeault. At one point in the acrimonious relationship, a pirate flag was erected over the landfill.

There’s an opinion among some Newburyport officials that Newburyport’s agreement with Thibeault wasn’t strong enough, and that the state will favor these types of landfill operations because the need to find a place to dispose of waste is so great. And it’s not as if competition for these kinds of projects is great — nobody wants a landfill in their neighborhood.

The Groveland Conservation Commission will hold a meeting tonight to hear the latest information. It appears that selectmen will also have to grant approval, although different town officials gave different opinions on this.

If Groveland has no opportunity to turn this proposal down outright, it would be best served by putting together the most stringent set of conditions that a sharp-penciled lawyer can muster. Newburyport’s unhappy experience can serve as the best argument for spending extra time and resources on getting it right.

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