Regulations Eased for Commercial Trash Haulers in Falmouth
By: Elise R. Hugus
Commercial trash haulers will be required to bring their loads to the Upper Cape Regional Transfer Station (UCRTS) starting January 1, following the Falmouth Board of Health’s approval of an amendment to its refuse regulation bylaw last night.
The amendments to the 19-year-old bylaw come after eight months of debate between proponents of a free market and residents who are concerned that taxpayers are footing the bill for running the transfer station because at least one trash hauler chose not to follow the law.
Over the past several months, the board of health has grappled with the dilemma of enforcing the regulation with limited resources and a lack of cooperation from Cavossa Disposal, while at the same time recognizing that the problem was more of a financial issue than a public health matter.
The board of health's decision comes after taking small steps towards compromise over the past 8 months.
- Fed up with Health Board Decisions, Falmouth Transfer Station Rep Resigns (Dec. 10, 2010)
- Falmouth Board of Health Amends Rates for Commercial Trash Haulers (Nov. 2, 2010)
- Falmouth Board of Health Enforces Flow Control (July 16, 2010)
Former board of health chairman James A. Vieira resigned in October over what he called “political pressure” and lack of communication between town departments over the issue.
More leeway if train fee paid
As passed, the amendment enforces flow control, a mechanism by which the UCRTS is ensured the minimum tonnage to fulfill the Upper Cape towns’ contracts with the SEMASS waste-to-energy incinerator in Rochester and with Massachusetts Coastal Railroad, which hauls the waste to SEMASS.
But the amendment also offers haulers an alternative, allowing them to bring trash to another health department-approved facility, provided that they submit documentation to the Falmouth health agent.
Under this option, haulers would be required to pay the UCRTS a monthly fee based on the amount of tonnage from Falmouth brought to another facility, multiplied by the current rate per ton charged by the railroad for transporting trash to SEMASS.
The amendment does not require haulers to pay the UCRTS an $8.81 tipping fee for tonnage that does not move through that facility.
Ruth F.P. Brazier, chairman of the Falmouth Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC), said the change to the regulation amounts to a 50 percent discount to commercial trash haulers.
“It makes it more complicated to not have the tipping fee. But 50 percent is still better than zero,” she said.
Carl F. Cavossa Jr., a commercial hauler who has challenged flow control from the start, said the fee is a personal penalty.
“This is to penalize me, if you haven’t figured that out yet,” he said.
Mr. Cavossa alluded to a legal challenge to the railroad fee “within the next 90 days,” but did not elaborate. He asked the board what it would do if the per-ton fee charged by the railroad was no longer in place.
“The only reason why we’re here is because the train charges a penalty. If that penalty goes away, please do not charge us. It’s not fair,” he said.
An evolving compromise
Daniel H. Shearer, a member of SWAC, was also unhappy with the amendment. His main complaint was a clause setting an end date for the regulation on December 31, 2014, the same date that the town’s contract with the railroad expires.
“You don’t need an end date. We have to work with the railroad and SEMASS [on a new contract]. We’ll have no leverage,” he said.
Board of health member Jared V. Goldstone reminded residents attending the meeting that the amendment is a compromise.
“This is a middle road. Nobody’s happy,” he said, adding that the regulation was written to encourage SWAC to “deal with this properly,” perhaps with a Town Meeting article.
He said that, in the meantime, selectmen should convene a working group, as requested this fall by the board of health, with the mission of coming up with a creative solution to the problem.
“It would be nice if selectmen paid attention,” Mr. Goldstone said.
Mr. Shearer said SWAC would likely introduce a Town Meeting article using the same language contained in the previous refuse regulation.
“I’d like to see the old regulations enforced, so the taxpayers don’t have to pay for employees at a transfer station that isn’t being used,” he said.
Health board member John B. Waterbury said the regulation will likely “evolve” in the future.
“What we’ve gotten ourselves to tonight is going to precipitate a lot of action. That’s what we need, for people to sit down and come up with a workable solution,” he said.
Finneran alleges ethics violation
Marc P. Finneran of Trotting Park Road, Teaticket, told the board that he would file a report with the Massachusetts Board of Ethics if it approved the amendment., due to a past ethics violation on the part of Falmouth Health Agent David W. Carignan, who was fined $1,000 for favoring Mr. Cavossa in a conflict with a contractor regarding a septic system 10 years ago.
“I don’t think Mr. Carignan should even sit in this room,” he said. “Realize the decision you people are about to make—for whatever reason, I can only guess—is going to cost the town a lot of money. The whole process is corrupt.”
Board member George R. Heufelder, barely containing his anger, told Mr. Finneran that the health agent advises and answers to the board and does not make decisions.
“Please, if you don’t want us on this board, march up here and get us off,” he said.
“That might happen, too. You shouldn’t be there,” retorted Mr. Finneran.
John S. Elliot, who resigned earlier this month from his post as Falmouth’s transfer station representative, also had a problem with the health agent, but for different reasons.
“As soon as it was found out that the [flow control] rule was not being enforced by Mr. Carignan, they started going to Bourne,” where the landfill charges haulers around $50 per ton of commercial waste, he said. The total fee charged per ton at the UCRTS is closer to $100 for commercial haulers.
Free market vs. tax burdens
Mr. Cavossa defended his business decisions, as he has over the past several months, by insisting that flow control limits competition and drives up fees for his clients.
“Competition makes pricing seek its own level. Without competition, the waste industry will face huge increases in tipping,” he said.
Ms. Brazier said the final tonnage brought to the UCRTS from the three participating Upper Cape towns will not be available until January.
So far this year, commercial haulers have brought in less than 4,000 tons from Falmouth, of a total 16,000 tons of mixed commercial and residential trash.
Under its contract with UCRTS, Falmouth is expected to bring in half of the 40,000 tons required by the railroad, or pay the difference in unused tipping and railroad services.
According to the solid waste committee, Falmouth paid more than $100,000 for unused services last year and is set to pay up to $500,000 by 2014.
It is too early to tell how much of a penalty the town will have to pay at the end of the year, said Ms. Brazier. “It’s likely to be a lot bigger than last year,” she said.