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Massachusetts Lacks Dumps To Solve Tree Stump Problem

December 2, 1985 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ Pollution and hazardous waste are environmental woes that gain headlines in Massachusetts, but the problem of what to do with tree stumps has developers and homeowners really stumped.

Massachusetts has too many tree stumps because of storms like Hurricane Gloria and because of a home and industry construction boom.

It used to be that developers could just bury or burn the stumps. Not any more.

The state’s outdoor burning law prohibits burning the stumps to protect air quality. Because the state Department of Environmental Quality Engineering considers tree stumps a solid waste, a developer would need a landfill permit to bury them. Gaining the permit is a complicated process requiring a public hearing, review by the local health board and department approval.

And most commercial dumps refuse to take stumps because they take up too much landfill space.

The problem is particularly troublesome in Belchertown, a growing rural community near Springfield.

″We have a lot of building going on,″ William G. Whitlock, secretary to the Board of Selectmen, told the Boston Sunday Globe. ″On every lot there are a lot of trees. What do you do with the stumps?″

Developer Robert Henrichon is planning to build 26 homes on one-acre lots. He said at least 20 trees must be cleared from each lot. In the past, he simply buried the stumps elsewhere on the lot.

Even if Henrichon were to receive a landfill permit, burying the stumps could cause complications if a septic tank were constructed nearby, and a driveway built over them might settle as the stumps rot.

″It’s unfair to bury them in backyards,″ said Eugene Dranka, the environmental department’s analyst for the area. ″He should hire someone to shave them down or find a dump that takes stumps. It is a little expensive but not insurmountable.″

Wellesley town arborist Ronald Despres is also searching for a solution. Hurricane Gloria uprooted 78 trees from public lands in that Boston suburb. With machines called chippers, most of the stumps have been ground into mulch, but a dozen remain.

″When homeowners call us about a tree, we recommend they hire an excavator with a backhoe to bury it on the spot,″ said Despres, president of the state Tree Warden and Foresters Association. ″Most tree firms won’t take them away.″


One company contacted by the Globe does dispose of tree stumps. But the service isn’t cheap at $250 to $300 per stump.

David Pollock of Weston said his company disposes of stumps in gravel pits it owns after the gravel supply is exhausted.

″But it’s very hard to get permits for new gravel rights,″ he said. ″There are not that many more sites.″

Robert Meade, president of the Massachusetts Arborist Association, has one solution.

″The state should have regional stump dumps,″ he said.