SOUTHBRIDGE, MA — On June 9, NELC attorneys filed a citizen enforcement suit against Casella Waste Systems, Inc., Southbridge Recycling & Disposal Park, Inc., and the Town of Southbridge under the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The lawsuit alleges that a landfill operated by the companies and owned by the town is contaminating the underground aquifer that provides drinking water for homes in Sturbridge and Charlton, Mass., and is illegally discharging pollutants into a nearby stream and wetlands.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on behalf of Toxics Action Center and Environment Massachusetts, as well as 99 individuals who live near the landfill in Charlton.
At present, 88 drinking water wells in Sturbridge and Charlton have tested positive for the presence of pollutants such as lead, 1,4-dioxane (a suspected carcinogen), or chlorinated volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene (a known carcinogen). Groundwater monitoring performed by the companies indicates that the landfill is releasing elevated levels of each of these pollutants.
“I am proud to stand with concerned residents and the scores of people who can no longer drink their well water,” said Claire Miller of Toxics Action Center. “This is a public health crisis and it is unacceptable.”
After NELC filed suit, new information reported by the companies to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has further revealed the extent of the pollutant releases at the landfill and illuminated the process by which the landfill’s pollutants are contaminating drinking water.
Along with the monitoring results, the companies also reported the results of a geophysical survey of bedrock fractures at the landfill. The survey indicates that bedrock fractures at the landfill are oriented in the direction of the contaminated drinking water wells, providing a direct pathway for pollutants from the landfill to migrate to residents’ water.
NELC intends to use this new information, along with the extensive history of pollutant releases at the landfill and the corresponding contamination of drinking water wells, to hold the companies accountable and compel them to remediate the ongoing harm.