OPINION | Barry Richard: Is Accepting The Vineyard’s Trash a Fair Trade Off for Freight Deal?
Under a deal currently being formulated New Bedford could find itself on the receiving end of regular shipments of trash from Martha's Vineyard.
The Mitchell Administration is working with The Steamship Authority on a plan that could allow the city to receive freight destined for Martha's Vineyard and perhaps Nantucket. The freight could then be shipped to the island from New Bedford's State Pier or the Marine Commerce Terminal. For every load shipped from New Bedford the city would accept a shipment from The Vineyard on the return trip. That could include regular shipments of refuge from the island.
Mayor Jon Mitchell tells me the trash would likely be disposed of at the Crapo Hill Regional Landfill that New Bedford shares with Dartmouth and perhaps the SEMASS waste to energy facility in Rochester. The trash would arrive in New Bedford and be hauled through the streets to its final destination. Mitchell says;
“It’s definitely something we want, we just want it in the right place,” Mayor Mitchell said. “The freight service might ultimately include trash service from the Vineyard. I don’t think anyone wants trash unloaded at the State Pier, given that there is a ferry terminal there and given its proximity to restaurants. But I think it’s eventually going to happen.”
Any revenue generated through tipping fees paid by The Vineyard would offset operational costs at the landfill. The addition of trash from Martha's Vineyard's could also have an impact on the life expectancy of the landfill.
Mitchell admits that while he'd like to enter into a freight agreement with the islands such an arrangement would not be a huge boost to the local economy;
“I don’t think it’ll be a huge job creator. We figure maybe 15 jobs or so, which look, we’ll take every job we can get,” he said. “It’s not like it’s going to be a huge boon to the local economy. It just compliments the other things that we have going on there.”
Currently, trash is shipped from The Vineyard to the mainland on The Cape. Most freight is shipped to the islands from The Cape. That creates a tremendous traffic bottleneck for motor vehicle traffic on narrow Cape highways. It is hoped that using New Bedford as a freight port could alleviate some of that traffic.
Any arrangement that would decrease the life expectancy of the landfill should be considered very carefully. The idea of importing another community's trash and hauling it through the streets of New Bedford for the meager return it would provide seems hardly worth it to me.
On the face of it, this proposal is a non-starter to me. Look forward to hearing it debated during the upcoming election cycle.
Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author