Michael Leon, chair of the firm’s Environmental Law practice group and a member of the Land Use practice group, was featured in CommonWealth Magazine’s article “Ending Middleton’s Environmental Nightmare,” which details the town of Middletown’s thirty-year battle to clean up a landfill. The article highlights a 17-acre site owned by long-time Middleton resident, Peter Rubchinuk, who received partial approval for a landfill, yet regularly violated the terms. Mike, the court-appointed receiver for Middleton, is credited for revolutionizing solid waste management in the Bay State with his handling of this complicated case and his push to confront problems with old landfills in Middleton and elsewhere.
When Mike came onto the case 20 years ago, he was determined to cap and close the site, which had turned into an illegal waste dump. However, he was faced with Rubchinuk’s refusal to cooperate. “His attitude was basically, ‘It was my land, I’m not doing anything wrong,’ nobody was going to tell him what to do,” says Leon of Rubchinuk.
Rubchinuk eventually fled to New Hampshire and Mike was left without any assets to begin the clean-up process. The clean-up project began in the late 1990s and Mike raised money by selling buildable lots to a developer and accepting urban land fill from construction projects involving the Big Dig, the MBTA Silver Line, and Logan International Airport.
In 2009, Mike transferred title of the land to the town. “The neighborhood did very well,” said Leon. “I am sure none of them know that this was a big farm and illegal dump.” In addition to soccer fields, there are now trails and multi-million dollar homes on the former landfill.
Additionally, Massachusetts now has only 24 active landfills left and the state has some of the strictest solid waste regulations in the country.