Vermont Environmental Court Judge Meridith Wright has vacated Omya’s solid waste disposal certification, ruling that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) must conduct a public trust analysis when issuing a waste disposal certification because the company’s marble processing activities may impact the groundwater.
Wright’s ruling, which remands Omya’s final certification to the ANR to perform this analysis, is the first interpretation of Vermont's 2008 law designating groundwater of the State as a public trust resource. The ANR must incorporate the public trust analysis required by Vermont’s groundwater protection law into the solid waste certification process, she ruled. Wright made her ruling Monday and notified the parties in the case today. Omya may appeal today’s ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court.
Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic ‘has played an important part in establishing a groundbreaking precedent that will help protect the groundwater resources of the state for future generations of Vermonters,’ said ENRLC Acting Director Teresa Clemmer.
For years, Omya has dumped its waste into unlined pits, which has caused the groundwater under its mineral processing facility in Florence, Vermont, to become contaminated with arsenic and aminoethyl ethanolamine, according to the lead ENRLC attorney on the case, Sheryl Dickey.
On behalf of the citizens group Residents Concerned about Omya (RCO), the ENRLC filed appeals challenging solid-waste and Act 250 permits issued by the ANR that allow Omya to dispose of its calcium carbonate waste. RCO has been advocating for protection of the groundwater in the vicinity of the Omya facility for more than seven years.
In 2008, the ENRLC appealed ANR's issuance of Omya's interim solid waste certification to the Environmental Court. In 2010, the ENRLC appealed, again to the Environmental Court, the ANR's issuance of Omya's final certification. More than 21 student clinicians at the ENRLC have been involved in the case over the years.
Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service, a Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree and two post-JD degrees, the Master of Laws in Environmental Law and the LLM in American Legal Studies (for international students). The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center and the South Royalton Legal Clinic. For more information, visit www.vermontlaw.edu.