A Proposed Landfill
In January 2019, J.W. Chipping Corp. filed a Notice of Options to Purchase Real Estate and Right of First Refusal for multiple parcels of land totaling 1890 acres located in Littleton, Bethlehem, and Dalton, New Hampshire. The option holder, the firm being given the option to purchase this land, is North Country Environmental Services – a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems. At the April 3, 2019 Dalton Planning Board meeting, a Casella representative stated that their intent was to open a 100 acre landfill on this site. Given their history in other locations, we had reason to believe that this would only be the beginning.
At a May 31 conceptual review meeting with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Casella showed plans for a 180 acre three-phase landfill development. This represents an 80% increase in their stated plan in just two months. Where does it end?
Issues with a Landfill
The Bethlehem Landfill
North Country Environmental Services is the current owner of a landfill in Bethlehem. That landfill was originally built in 1976 and bought by Casella Waste Systems in 1994. Since Casella’s purchase, the company has expanded the landfill several times despite the people of the town of Bethlehem voting against it, leading to over a decade of court battles about zoning regulations. NCES has attempted in the past to avoid paying most property taxes in Bethlehem. At other times they have not paid host community fees to Bethlehem and charged the town to accept their trash.
This landfill would border Forest Lake State Park and would be very close to Alder Brook and extensive wetlands that drain into the Ammonoosuc River. Given this location, water and groundwater pollution is likely and almost inevitable, and would affect Forest Lake, Burns Pond, Johns River, Connecticut River, Alder Brook and the Ammonoosuc River Watershed. Air pollution would be another major concern. Landfills do not smell good. If North Country Environmental Services installs an incinerator like they did in the Bethlehem landfill, that will release toxic gases and particulate into the air, which will eventually settle back down to the surrounding land and water bodies. In addition, landfills tend to attract scavengers like seagulls – and their fecal matter is another potential water contaminant.
Economic & Quality of Life Impact
Beyond the environmental impact is the economic impact and quality-of-life impact. Landfills have a history of driving down property values of all nearby lots and homes. A landfill in Dalton would mean constant heavy truck traffic coming through the neighboring towns of Twin Mountain, Whitefield, and Bethlehem. As a replacement for the Bethlehem landfill, a Dalton landfill is unlikely to create any additional jobs.
Casella Waste Systems’ Environmental Record
Casella Waste Systems has been fined multiple times and issued Notices of Violations by environmental departments in several states- including Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. A small sample is listed below. They are currently facing a lawsuit from the Toxics Action Center and the Conservation Law Foundation for allegedly discharging pollutants into the Ammonoosuc River from the Bethlehem Landfill. The Environmental Action for Northern New Hampshire website has photos of seep from the landfill dating back as far as 1998. Similar photos are in the public record at the state Department of Environmental Services.
|May 2000||Bethlehem Landfill – NH||The Department of Environmental Services in New Hampshire fined North Country Environmental Services for $134,500 for violating the NH Hazardous Waste Rules. DES later settled for $17,500. (DES Settlement Agreement)|
|December 2009||Southbridge Landfill – MA||$34,314 fine over environmental violations (Article)|
|May 2015||McKean County Landfill – PA||The Department of Environmental Protection in Pennsylvania fined Casella for $20,750 for failing to prevent leachate from leaking outside the landfill liner. (DEP Press Release)|
|February 2017||Southbridge Landfill – MA||The Department of Environmental Protection of Massachusetts fined Casella for $24,331 for failing to prevent groundwater contamination, failing to comply with emission limitations, and altering a wetlands without filing a notice of intent. (Article)|
|April 2017||Ontario County Landfill – NY||The Department of Environmental Conservation in New York issued seven Notices of Violations to Casella. In October 2018, another violation was noted for allowing leachate to contaminate a storm water pond. (Notice of Violations)|