Excavation reveals thousands of pounds of solid waste dumped illegally in AuburnBy BENJAMIN C. KLEIN
Union Leader Correspondent
October 22. 2013 9:55AM
AUBURN — After months of speculation by town and police officials regarding illegal dumping at the closed landfill off Raymond Road, thousands of pounds of solid waste that appears to have been buried after the landfill closed was dug up Monday morning exactly at the spot where the initial tip said it would be.
Police Officer Bill Barry said that while the investigation is still ongoing and no official blame has been assigned, it appears to him that town Road Agent Mike Dross either is responsible for or had knowledge of the dumping.
"Either (Dross) had knowledge of it or he was responsible, we don't know yet, we're looking into that and we'll find out what happens. Ultimately I think the town is going to have to figure out who did it, why, how much it costs and who is going to pay for all this," Barry said while gesturing to the large excavation equipment and the excavated solid waste strewn about on the landfill.
Along with removing the buried materials, officials from Stantec Consulting Services took water samples from the dug-up pit to test for any possible groundwater contamination. The material was found 10 feet beneath the surface behind a giant pile of dirt.
Dross, who has previously said that the landfill is his responsibility, said he had no comment.
The Board of Selectmen initially authorized Stantec, the town's engineering firm, to oversee the excavation at a cost of $4,500. However, Dan Lane of Stantec, who was overseeing the excavation, said that he didn't have an estimate as to how much extra cost the town would incur properly disposing of the dug-up solid waste.
"There is a lot of solid waste here, a lot of tires and scrap metal and what appears to be pieces of furniture and a mattress. We are looking into whether this constitutes illegal dumping; we have to go through the process to identify when the timing of this may have been. The landfill closed about 10 years, and based upon what I have seen of the excavated material, there is a likelihood that it was buried after the landfill was closed," Greg Carrigan of the Department of Environmental Services Response and Complaint Investigation Section said.
Carrigan and Barry both checked dates on tires, food packaging, and anything that could help identify when the material was buried. Every tire that had a legible build date said that the tire was constructed during 2007 at the earliest and the food packaging unearthed had expiration dates ranging from 2011 to 2013. Dross has been Road Agent since 2006.
"Based upon the evidence and dates of the materials in the pile, this probably occurred after 2006," Barry said.
Carrigan said that since the material constitutes solid waste it should have been disposed of using a permitted facility.
"Typically there is a cost associated with disposing of this stuff, and if you don't do that you don't have to pay," Carrigan said.
In 2012, Dross oversaw a budget of close to $1.7 million for roughly 60 miles of road, much more money than towns like Chester, Candia and Brookline, which also have elected road agents and a similar amount of roads.
Since becoming Road Agent Dross has contracted roughly $800,000 worth of work to himself.
"When police get information about possible wrongdoing it is our obligation to look into it, and for some town officials to say we have a vendetta against Dross is not true, we got this information and we are obligated to look into it. We'll see what we find, the investigation will determine who was involved and why," Barry said.
Selectmen James Headd and Paul Raiche have both stated their support for Dross, as has Town Administrator Bill Herman. All three have also praised the job he has done as Road Agent.
The landfill investigation is one of three police investigations looking into the possibility of the involvement of Dross.
On Friday, at a cost of $5,000, officials from Stantec oversaw drilling on Eaton Hill Road after reports surfaced that police were investigating a claim that Dross had paved it using illegal materials gathered from the closed incinerator.
Barry said that police are also looking into whether or not Dross was involved in illegal dumping on the private property of Geraldine Silva.
When asked about what was found during the morning at the dump during Monday night's Select Board meeting, Chair Russell Sullivan said, "We have no reports on it yet, We are waiting on Stantec to get a report back to us. We could probably discuss it better when we get the report, which I believe will occur within the week."