On the Right Lane: Bring back the transfer station

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“My wife is always trying to get rid of me. The other day she told me to put the garbage out. I said to her I already did. She told me to go and keep an eye on it.”
Rodney Dangerfield

When I was growing up we put our two 55-gallon trash barrels in a small shed-like structure. There was one problem – the shed was right beside the door we used the most. It wasn’t bad at all in the winter months, but when warm weather arrived there was no doubt where the trash was.

In those days recycling did not exist, nor did transfer stations. All the trash went to a dump at the edge of the town where it was piled and then burned. Of course not all trash burned equally, so the place attracted rats and only God knows what else. I would classify it as unsanitary and smelly at the least. In those days one didn’t see the amount of trash in the woods or along side the remote roads.

Probably one of the things I get asked the most about is why Windham doesn’t have a transfer station. I have heard that one once existed in what has become Enterprise Drive,  and the covered landfill still exists there and more than likely will forever. I was amazed at what happened when we lived in northern Maine where an old dump had to be removed and resealed in order to protect the groundwater. Papers buried there that were nearly 100 years old were still readable. Yet in some places in Maine today landfills are still being used.

Last week I mentioned the trash being placed in Windham’s recycle bins and wondered how much of it would end up in the woods otherwise. I believe the best solution to reduce, if not stop, trash from going into the woods is for Windham to finally bring back a transfer station like most of the towns around us have. I guess there were complaints that the old transfer station had a horrible appearance problem, but if properly supervised it wouldn’t have to. I have seen transfer stations in other states that are excellently maintained and awesome to see. (One even had picnic tables there.)

There are those who will always throw their junk into the woods along mostly remote areas to avoid paying disposal fees for such items as stoves, refrigerators or tires. I do believe a Windham transfer station would help reduce the amount of trash disposed of illegally, but more than likely it wouldn’t totally eliminate it as people will be people.

I certainly don’t know the costs associated with running a transfer station in a town the size of Windham, so the best place to begin is determining what that cost would be. Since Windham uses those pay-as-you-go trash bags I would have to believe that the normal household trash system would continue. That means a transfer station in Windham wouldn’t have to operate on a full-time basis, which should save some money. Who knows, maybe it could be successfully subcontracted but supervised by the town? Maybe a good suggestion is to combine it with the leaf and brush pile area in order to get it away from the Pleasant River. But then again, to find an area for such a facility might take several studies and thousands of dollars, which is the way our government appears to operate.

I don’t worry that much about funding because I believe some items would require a disposal fee, although the smaller the better. I know the scrap metal market ebbs and flows, so there may be times it makes a lot more money than other times. I suggest we do away with the TIF that funds the Windham Economic Development Corporation. That would  provide good start-up funds for a transfer station. At least that’s a beginning.

Lane Hilltunen of Windham wonders how New Gloucester has a free bulky waste program.