Old-timers in Wilmington might see the name “Maple Meadow Landfill” and scratch their heads. Where is that?
That’s the upgraded name for the old dump at Spinazola’s, down near the Woburn line. For most of the mid-20th century, Wilmington had a town dump, at one location or another.
Years ago, people would take care of their own trash. Food scraps were composted or buried, paper was burned, newspaper was recycled in paper drives, and “clunk” was often dumped in the back corner of the property. I remember finding the remains of rusted cans in the woods. In the 1970s, someone came to the door wanting to look for bottles in the corner of the stone walls. Unfortunately, stones had fallen off the walls and all the bottles were broken.
In the 1950s, we would keep a barrel under the back porch for cans and bottles. Every month or two, we’d load it up and take it to the dump, which was located on Salem Street near the North Reading line. There was a turnout above the gravel pit, and people would dump their trash over the edge. The biggest concern was that it would often catch fire.
When that dump closed, the Canalas farm at the end of McDonald Road became the site of the town dump. Ventura Canalas established separate routes, one for garbage, one for trash. The farm was in an area near the Wilmington - Tewksbury line. At the same time, Paul Godzyk started a trash collection route. He would come around in a 1937 Ford dump truck with built-up sides. His helper would be in the back of the truck, and Paul would pass the barrels into the back of the truck where his helper would empty them, all the while standing on an increasing load of trash. The trash was mostly clunk and paper, as garbage was still being collected on a separate route.
It was common practice for pig farmers to establish garbage routes. Their crews would go door-to-door, collecting food waste, which would be cooked and fed to the pigs. There were several pig farms in the area that had garbage collection routes, usually under contract to various towns. Canalas had both types of collection routes.
For several years, Wilmington contracted with Mastromarino Bros. of Winchester. Most homes would have a garbage pail in the back yard, often an underground unit. Youngsters were assigned the unpleasant chore of occasionally scrubbing out the pail.
The closure of the Canalas dump saw the opening of a new dump off Old Main Street, near the Woburn city line. It was owned by a Woburn resident, Clarence Spinazola, otherwise known as “Clem.” He operated the dump under contract to the town. By the time the dump closed in 1976, the town was paying him $50,000 a year.
Wilmington residents were allowed to dump their refuse, but there was a strict identification check to stop nonresidents from dumping. In 1971, the town posted a police officer at the dump to check addresses, and on weekends there would be long lines of people wanting to access the dump.
Local pols always viewed the dump as a wonderful place to meet voters. It became a springtime ritual.
This writer witnessed an exchange between Spinazola and a young man from North Wilmington. The young man had cleaned out the loft of his father’s garage, and the debris included a large batch of old invoices, which had a Boston address. The invoices had been stored in North Wilmington for many years.
Clem came over to inspect the material being dumped. Once he saw the Boston address on the papers, he accused the young man of bringing in trash from Boston to dump in Wilmington. They almost came to blows.
The Spinazola property was once a pig farm, the Blue Hog Piggery, run by George Griffiths. Classified ads in the Boston papers a century ago boasted of Blue Hog being the nation’s largest piggery.
In the 1960s and 70s, Spinazola would rent part of the barn to a pig farmer. He also rented space to Reuben “Ruby” Frankel, who had a business recycling wooden boxes for fruit and produce. He would visit supermarkets and collect the boxes, and then store them in the barn at Spinazola’s. Then just before harvest time, he would sell them to farmers in the area.
Eventually, the barn and all the boxes burned. “Ruby” later went into the antiques business and was a member of the Friendship Lodge of Masons. He was a wiry, small man with a very large spirit, and he overcame many setbacks in life.
In the early 1970s, the town began looking at alternative sites for the dump. The primary concern at the time was cost. The selectmen voted in 1972 to develop an old gravel pit near the dump as the new dump. It became known as “Site One.” There were other proposals. Jim Miceli favored a site north of Route 125, but it was nixed by the water commissioners.
The dump question lay silent until 1976. In 1975, following a major fire at the Middleton dump, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Quality Engineering (DEQE) began examining dumps. Although Wilmington’s dump was termed a “sanitary landfill,” it was deemed not up to state standards. The town came under considerable pressure to close the dump. Spinazola and town officials met with the assistant attorney general, representing the DEQE. Eventually Spinazola signed an agreement to close down the dump.
Meanwhile, the town meeting of March 1976 was in a dither about the dump. On March 13, the voters nixed Site One, and the meeting adjourned with no solution. When the meeting resumed a week later, discussion went on for nearly eight hours on the dump question. Eventually, the town voted to appropriate $130,000 for a transfer station.
In late April, Town Manager Sterling Morris asked for bids for contractors to collect and dispose of rubbish. There were 13 bidders, and the contract was awarded to Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI).
But the controversy was not finished. On June 10, a suit was filed against the selectmen, the town manager and “Brown and Ferris” (sic) attempting to block the trucking of rubbish out of town. The suit was dismissed.
On June 21, BFI began operations. Paul Godzyk stopped his residential service. BFI initially was hauling to the Rocco dump in Tewksbury. That led to some negotiations between the Tewksbury and Wilmington selectmen, since that town considered it illegal for out-of-town rubbish to be brought to the Rocco dump.
One disgruntled resident attempted to stuff a bag of trash in a window. The bag was found outside the back door of town hall.
A petition was sent to the town manager with 800 signatures, but the town manager was not the one who could call a special town meeting. Another petition was sent, this time to the town clerk, and on July 29, a special town meeting was held. Kevin Berrigan offered a motion to void the contract with BFI. That motion lost, 86 to 52.
Paul Godzyk then offered a motion to have the town issue a dump permit to Spinazola. The moderator ruled that motion out of order.
No other action was taken. The town dump was a dead duck.