Marion tweaks proposal to please Wareham, Carver

Sep 10, 2020

The members of the Wareham Carver Marion Regional Refuse Disposal District Committee met on Thursday, and were able to come to a consensus on the terms of the “Plan B” devised by Marion in case the new district contract is not approved by Wareham and Carver’s Town Meeting this fall.

The Waste District was formed by Carver, Marion and Wareham in 1975 to allow the three towns to negotiate jointly with Covanta SEMASS, a waste-to-energy company in Rochester so they could dispose of their trash for free in exchange for allowing Covanta to dispose of ash and trash for free in the Carver landfill.

The district’s contract with Covanta will expire on Dec. 31, 2020, so the committee needs to decide the future of the waste district and do so in time for it to be approved by voters at town meetings.

The three towns have crafted a potential agreement that residents will be asked to vote on at their town meetings. That agreement would reduce the district to a skeleton by ceasing all operations beyond the ongoing payment of liabilities like post-retirement benefits for employees and the insurance on the Carver landfill property.

Representatives of Marion are concerned that the agreement may not pass at all three town meetings, and, last month, were asked by Wareham and Carver to come up with a clear “Plan B” in case that were to happen. Marion presented an initial version of that back-up plan at the committee’s August 27 meeting, but Wareham and Carver members thought the proposed terms were unfair.

The back-up plan would see Marion exit the district, taking two pieces of equipment and the Benson Brook Transfer Station, but relinquishing any claim to the district’s other assets and funds. In exchange, Marion would give up any responsibility for the ongoing liability related to the Carver landfill.

That is, if there were some environmental problem at the landfill after the district’s insurance runs out in 2045, Wareham and Carver alone would be on the hook to pay any costs.

On Thursday, Marion representatives agreed to amend the terms of the agreement to say that the town would pay for a share of the liability for environmental damage, but would not pay for the liability for other types of damages. For example, if Wareham and Carver were to continue to operate the Rte. 28 transfer station and someone was injured on the property, Marion would not be responsible.

All parties agreed that it was unlikely that such an event would come to pass, as the district holds a $10 million insurance policy. The district is only responsible for the first $100,000 of damages. 

Both Wareham and Carver will hold Town Meetings in October, and will most likely vote on the preferred district agreement that would dissolve the district.

Marion has already approved that agreement. Marion will likely hold a Town Meeting in November, after the other towns’ meetings, that would allow the town to approve the “Plan B” if either Wareham or Carver votes against the preferred agreement. 

The committee also discussed changing the district’s name to remove Marion. Because the district was created through the state legislature, changing the name would require special legislation.

While all agreed it wasn’t a top priority, Marion Selectman John Waterman said he hoped the district would change it, if only to avoid potentially confusing residents.