In Search of A Better Town Dump

A special town meeting had been called to take up the question of the town dump here in Sedgwick, Maine. From what I knew, it seemed like a fairly straightforward proposition.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had mandated that all open dumps be closed. We had an open dump. Ergo, our dump would have to be closed.

Fortunately, there was a DEP approved ``transfer station'' in Blue Hill, 12 miles away. We could cover over our dump with earth and haul our trash to Blue Hill. Problem solved. All in favor say ``aye.''

But the ``ayes'' did not have it. Far from it, in fact. The Sedgwick dump had been around a long time. There were fond feelings for the place. People here had watched the dump grow and develop over the years from a turn in the road on a hill to a hill itself.

It was convenient, that was for sure. You could drive in, make a U-turn, and throw your garbage out the window without even stopping if you liked. Wood trash went in one place and everything else in another, but fires tended to creep over the line.

There were always gulls, smoke, and flies, and you tried to time your visits to when a strong southwesterly was blowing.

Still, it was a good place to chat with friends and neighbors; it had the best view around; often you came back from it with more than you took; and it hardly cost the town a cent.

``What about Conroy?'' a man I didn't know asked. Conroy took care of the dump. He got rid of rats, set fires, and called the fire department when things got out of control. I'd seen him in the winter trudging past our house on snow shoes to check his beaver traps. Conroy would be out of a job.

Duane Marsters, a stout, short, red-faced man who was in charge of the town roads, stood up. ``We don't need to do away with the dump - just clean it up a bit.''

There were some loud cheers.

``On dump days you make what they call `cells.' That's just a hole plowed into the dirt with a front-end loader. You dump everything there - except for what you burn, and the washing machines and refrigerators and stuff like that. That we sell.''

Many cheers this time, plus a few whistles.

``Cost us the price of Bert Logan's time, and everybody knows that's not worth much.'' Laughter plus foot stomping and other sounds of approval.

``I move we keep the dump,'' someone yelled out. When the shouting and tumult died, the ``ayes'' had it by 27 to 4.

``Got to form a committee, though,'' Duane went on. ``Can't do nothin' without a committee.'' The merriment was general. ``Any volunteers?''

I found myself raising my hand. It was our first year as full-time residents of Maine. I thought I should get involved.

The committee to save the Sedgwick dump consisted of Duane Marsters, Joe Betts (the man who made the motion to keep the dump), and me.

``I thought you were against the dump,'' my wife said.

``I am,'' I said. ``But they'll see reason. I'll persuade them.''

Joe Betts was okay. He was the harbor master. Years ago, he and I had done some trout fishing together - way back when I was in college and had come up here early one summer by myself. I could talk to Joe.

Duane I was not so sure of. He had the reputation of being a tough egg, like his father before him, who had also been in charge of the roads.

Our committee met for the first time on Monday night of the following week.

Joe and Duane were already there when I arrived. Electing a chairman was the first order of business. We got right down to it.

``What do you know about the dump?'' Duane asked.

``Enough,'' I said, my voice calm and restrained.

``You don't really live here,'' he added. ``How long you been here? Six months? And you don't work. What stake you got in the dump?''

Joe Betts, whose eye I'd been trying to catch, unsuccessfully, nodded his head. I felt myself starting to boil.

``Just because I'm retired doesn't mean I don't work,'' I said, feeling my face redden. ``And I've been around here longer than you have, Duane Marsters. I knew your father when you were still in diapers. As a matter of fact....''

``I vote for Trowbridge as chairman,'' Duane said. ``All in favor....''

Joe nodded his head, and I thought I caught a smile. Was this some kind of trick? Me, head of the committee to save the Sedgwick dump?

OK, I said, taking up the challenge. We'd see. The committee to save the Sedgwick Town Dump consisted of Duane Marsters, Joe Betts, and me. `I thought you were against the dump,' my wife said. `I am,' I said. `But they'll see reason. I'll persuade them.'

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