Middleton Landfill Enforcement Cases Result in $747,000 for Community Improved Projects in Environmental Justice Communities
The proceeds are the remainder of funds collected by Leon during his 20-year receivership, after the expenses of closing the illegal landfill, providing mitigation payments to Middleton and nearby residents, and transferring the landfill property to Middleton for post-closure maintenance.
"We are pleased that the Commonwealth has reached a resolution and eliminated a dangerous, public environmental nuisance in Middleton by closing this illegal landfill," said Attorney General Coakley. "The resolution also provides resources to help some communities start to break the cycle of historic environmental degradation. The EEA-approved grants for community gardens and parks should greatly benefit the host communities."
"Projects funded through this settlement will enhance the quality of life for residents of communities that have seen more than their fair share of environmental degradation," Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said. "I am happy to join Attorney General Coakley and Commissioner Burt in announcing a very appropriate and satisfying resolution to this case."
"MassDEP is extremely pleased with the final resolution of the long-standing case, which has transformed an historic dumping ground into a 17-acre capped landfill that provides passive recreational uses for the public," MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt said. "For many years, we have worked with the Attorney General's Office, the site receiver and the town to jointly develop this site into a model, multi-use facility."
"It was a privilege to be able to assist the Commonwealth, including the Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General's Office, in achieving this success, cleaning up this illegal landfill and protecting the community in Middleton," said Michael Leon, the court-appointed receiver. "I am pleased that the site has been transformed from a dangerous area to a valuable part of the town's environment and recreational program."
The landfill, located off East Street in Middleton, was owned for many years by Peter Rubchinuk, who is now deceased. The site was approved by MassDEP's predecessor agency only for sanitary landfilling, but Rubchinuk and other involved family members accepted all kinds of building demolition debris, old tires, derelict cars and boats, old rail cars, some hazardous materials, and many other forms of solid waste. In 1975, a tire fire broke out at the site that required emergency assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers to extinguish. In 1976, the Attorney General's Office first brought suit against Peter Rubchinuk to close the landfill. The Attorney General's Office brought a second suit in 1985 against Rubchinuk's son, Carleton, and other family members involved in landfill operations.
In 1989, Superior Court Judge John Paul Sullivan entered a Final Judgment against Peter Rubchinuk, appointed Mr. Leon as receiver to cap and close the landfill, and required the defendant to cooperate in all respects with the closure. In 1991, the court entered a similar Final Judgment in the second case against the other defendants.
In the late 1990's, the receiver secured closure funding through the sale of a clean portion of the property for residential development, and from fees for accepting excavate for capping and closure material from the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project, the MBTA Silver Line Transitway Project, and the Massachusetts Port Authority Logan Airport Rehabilitation Project. The actual closure of the landfill took a number of years, during which time the receiver took steps to compensate Middleton and nearby residents for the impacts of the closure work. For example, the receiver paid the town of Middleton to repair road damage caused by the trucks delivering excavate, provided traffic control during deliveries, installed truck washing facilities to limit dust impacts, arranged for street sweeping and washing, and employed various additional mitigation and corrective actions. Lastly, the receiver constructed a recreational field on the clean portion of the landfill site for the use of town residents.
Once the work was completed and certified as such in 2008 by MassDEP, and with approval of the Superior Court, the receiver transferred the landfill property in 2009 to Middleton along with enough proceeds to cover the post-closure costs of maintaining the landfill in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. To enhance the site further, Middleton planned to construct another recreational facility there, in an area prepared during the receiver's control of the site. The site is now a location for passive recreation, such as walking or sledding, and trails at the site connect to others on adjoining property.
The funds that are being turned over to EEA by the receiver are not required for further landfill closure or maintenance activities. Working with Attorney General Martha Coakley's office, EEA has developed a grant program for the use of the funds under EEA's Natural Resource Damages Assessment and Restoration Program. The funds will be distributed to certain community-based projects to restore solid waste-contaminated properties within "Environmental Justice" ("EJ") communities, that is, ones that have suffered disproportionate environmental degradation. The goal is to restore these properties to beneficial community uses.
Information on the grant opportunity, including the proposed application package for prospective projects, is available through EEA. The period for submitting applications will be announced shortly by EEA.
These cases have been handled for Attorney General Coakley's Environmental Protection Division by Assistant Attorney General Fred Augenstern. MassDEP personnel who have worked on these cases include Philip Weinberg, Steve Lipman, John Carrigan, Joel Hartley, Gary Davis and Phil DiPietro. EEA personnel who have worked on these cases include Karen Pelto, Dale Young and Margaret Callanan. Receiver Michael Leon is a principal of the firm of Nutter, McClennen & Fish.