Photo Credit: Lowell Sun
By Amaris Castillo
More than a dozen people stood last week on what used to be a waste dump straddling the town lines of Tyngsboro and Dunstable to celebrate a new chapter in the land's history. Today, there's a 10,000-panel, ground-mounted solar array sitting above the capped and treated Charles George Landfill.
Last Thursday, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Chairman of Citizens Energy Corporation and former congressman, joined officials from both Tyngsboro and Dunstable, as well as representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to mark the start of the $9.2-million solar project built by the nonprofit.
Tyngsboro Selectman Rick Reault recalled dumping trash at the site with his father when he was 13 years old before it was closed down and identified as a Superfund site for decades.
"We didn't know what was going on back then," Reault said. "To see this for our town and for Tyngsboro and Dunstable, it's very special. We were skeptical in the beginning. We really didn't know, we were uneducated to the project but we're so happy that we educated ourselves -- so happy that Citizens (Energy) educated us and we were happy that you jumped on board."
The project will produce 4.6 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually, enough to power 460 New England homes and prevent the release of 3,500 tons of carbon dioxide from non-renewable power plants, according to a release.
Electricity from the array is expected to bring close to $1 million in tax payments to both Tyngsboro and Dunstable over 20 years, as well as $3 million in annual savings to four public-entity customers buying the power.
"That is really what this is about, is trying to take a resource that all of us kind of grew up with, not really thinking much about it, going to the dump," Kennedy said. "And then all of a sudden people start recognizing that there's things leaking into their water supply or finding that for some reason or another their trees aren't growing right, or the grass isn't growing right, or the water doesn't taste right."
Tyngsboro selectmen two years ago reached an agreement on the multi-million dollar solar project at the site of the former landfill. At the time, Reault expressed his excitement of taking the property to realize income from it.
According to a release, the EPA and the state DEP coordinated closely with the town of Tyngsboro and Citizens Energy to ensure the solar complex would not compromise the cleanup of the 70-acre Superfund site in anyway. The agency, for example, ensured that no construction operations would puncture the landfill's cap.
"Redeveloping the Charles George Landfill Superfund site into a solar field returns an otherwise empty piece of land with use restrictions to productive use for the Town," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a written statement. "This public private partnership is an important step to successful redevelopment."
Ken Moraff, EPA Acting Deputy Regional Administrator, thanked Kennedy and officials from both towns and everyone involved in the project. He said this site had special challenges so a solar field was the "perfect installation."
"It's really a great feeling to stand here on this site," Moraff said. "Between EPA and DEP, we've put about $70 million into the cleanup and we are cleaning up Superfund sites all over the region, and we do cleanups to protect public health and the environment but we also -- wherever possible -- we really want to reuse these sites for the benefit of the communities and all over New England we have turned Superfund sites into housing, into office parks, into recreational areas, into transportation centers. We are reusing these sites."
Dunstable Selectmen Chair Walter F. Alterisio recalled that the property was once viewed as non-productive.
"That was the prospect," he shared with other officials. "So certainly on behalf of my community, certainly I say thanks to all the licensing authorities and the people who put the effort to turn this around to be a good thing."