NH Parks and Recreation Division Rebuffs Casella Offer to Maintain Forest Lake State Park

Casella Waste Systems subsidiary North Country Environmental Services (NCES) recently made an offer of assistance to maintain Forest Lake State Park in Dalton NH. The offer was rejected. The correspondence below are the letters from Casella to NH Parks, the reply, and a recent letter to the editor of the Caledonian Record by Eliot Wessler.

Caledonian Record, Aug 27, 2020. Re-posted with permission.

To the Editor:

It did not look like Forest Lake State Park (FLSP) was going to open for the summer season due to state budget cuts that have hobbled NH’s Parks Division. But FLSP did open for July 4th weekend thanks to an incredible volunteer effort led by the Dalton Board of Selectmen and the Dalton Fire Department.

Soon after the opening, Casella sent a letter to NH’s Parks Division saying it wanted to help—specifically to help manage and improve FLSP. A response to Casella finally came on August 18th—Casella’s offer of help was rebuffed in a letter from Phil Bryce, the Parks Director, to a top Casella manager. This response didn’t take the usual tack of politely saying no thank you; it said NO WAY!

The Parks Division letter gives two reasons: 1) because Casella had already engaged in a strategy of trying to inappropriately box out the Parks Division from participating as an abutter in decision-making over Casella’s proposal to build a huge new landfill in Dalton, right next to FLSP; and 2) because FLSP is a state asset as well as a community asset, and it should be and will be the Parks Division that will make capital improvements.

Casella’s offer to help was seen by many as a Johnny-come-lately move, a cheap and transparent ploy to buy good will in Dalton and surrounding communities. Given the spirit of Mr. Bryce’s letter, it seems like NH’s Parks Division may feel that way too.

The good news out of all this is that despite state budgets cuts that might have kept FLSP closed for the season, FSLP is open for business, thanks to the efforts of many dedicated volunteers. In fact, attendance at the beach this year has been very good.

And the other bit of good news is that if and when Casella files permit applications at NH’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), Casella presumably now recognizes that it can’t buy the support of NH’s Parks Division. The vast majority of residents in Dalton and neighboring towns are determined to protect FLSP from the odor, scavenger animals, polluted water, and all the other environmental insults that would likely come to FLSP and the surrounding area if DES allows Casella to go ahead with its plans to build a huge new landfill right next to FLSP.

Vermont corporations please take note—NH’s North Country is not for sale.

Eliot Wessler

Whitefield, N. H.

Dalton: Public Comment Sought For Draft Zoning Ordinance

Bill To Prohibit Landfills Near State Parks Won’t Move Forward In 2020

The Caledonian-Record, June 9, 2020

Posted with permission

Robert Blechl

After nearly a year of public meetings by the Dalton Planning Board, which has been writing a zoning ordinance for a town that until last year did not have one, public comment is being invited for the draft zoning posted on the town web site.

The comment period closes June 26, planning board members said in a press release issued Sunday.

The draft ordinance is available on the town web site and hard copies will be available at the town office during regular business hours, and will also be available for viewing by appointment by calling 837-7027, ext. 10.

“Dalton residents are encouraged to provide feedback on this draft, and the Planning Board welcomes all constructive feedback (pro or con),” said planners.

Comments can be submitted online through the planning board website or by emailing [email protected], or delivered or mailed to Dalton Planning Board, 756 Dalton Rd., Dalton, NH 03598.

Town planners said they seek informal public comments as they recognize the difficulty of large public meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and public participation via written feedback is encouraged.

When the final zoning ordinance is ready to go before Dalton residents for a vote, planners said there will be a notice of public hearing held prior to a town meeting.

In an update on the ordinance in March, Dalton planning board members said a vote would take place at a special town meeting later in 2020 or at the annual March town meeting in 2021.

The draft ordinance comes after a special town meeting vote in July 2019 in which residents voted 154-129 to adopt emergency temporary zoning in response to the proposed Casella Waste Systems landfill beside Forest Lake State Park.

Landfill Bill On Hold

Opponents of the landfill were hoping to have a some ammunition to fight it this year in the form of House Bill 1319, sponsored by state Rep. Elaine French, R-Littleton, which seeks to prohibit landfills within two miles of any state park.

Casella’s proposal is within that distance from Forest Lake State Park.

HB 1319 passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives in March and was expected to soon be taken up by the New Hampshire Senate.

In an email last week, however, a legislative aide notified Whitefield resident Sarah Doucette, member of the North Country Alliance for Balanced Change, that the bill will not be taken up by the Senate in 2020.

Doucette had written earlier to state Rep. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, to ask her if the bill would be considered this session.

“I spoke to the leadership staff and unfortunately due to the partisan vote on the bill out of the House, the bill will not be moving forward,” Jennifer Horgan, a legislative aide, wrote to Doucette on Wednesday.

Recent opposition to the bill came from the Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse Disposal District, which runs the Mt. Carberry landfill near Berlin, and in a letter to the Senate in May said the legislation as written and without amendments would harm it and its member communities.

French plans to keep the bill moving forward and to address concerns.

“Provided I’m reelected, I will be resubmitting it and making sure it has the Carberry stamp of approval,” she said Monday. “If I’m not reelected, I will find somebody to reintroduce it.”

CALL TO ACTION: Please contact NH senators NOW to protect our state parks from abutting landfills

To all who enjoy NH state and national parks:

Imagine heading to your favorite state park in New Hampshire for some hiking, picnicking, or boating. 

You arrive and are greeted by:
– Foul odors of methane and garbage
– Mobs of seagulls 
– Trash on hiking trails and in the water
– The constant rumble and crash of heavy machinery

This scenario is likely to happen, as a large, out-of-state landfill company is attempting to put a dump right next to Forest Lake State Park in Dalton, New Hampshire. 

There is a way to prevent this, and we need your help.

House Bill 1319 was passed in the NH House of Representatives. This bill establishes a required 2 mile buffer between a state park and landfill development. This is a simple, common-sense way of ensuring these land uses don’t interfere with each other. The bill is due to be reviewed by the senate, but is in jeopardy in 2020 due to the abbreviated session as a result of COVID-19.

Will you please write a short email asking NH Senators to support HB 1319 during this session? Anyone who enjoys our parks can write in, regardless of where you live. 

Please see this page for a sample e-mail and addresses to use.

Thank you for your support of our natural, educational and recreational resources in New Hampshire!

Sample letter to NH Senators to support HB 1319

You can copy and paste the letter below into your e-mail client. Please change the first sentence to reflect your circumstances – and please add a sentence to personalize your email even a little personalization gives your message great impact.

You can use the following e-mail list to address the senators. It’s best to copy/paste this into the BCC: (blind carbon copy) address field in your e-mail client. This sends a copy to all recipients without allowing a reply-to-all.


[email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected]


Dear Senator,

(As a New Hampshire resident, a voter and an outdoor enthusiast,) I’m writing to urge you to support HB 1319, the bill to prohibit new landfills within two miles of any New Hampshire state park. 

This bill – passed by the NH House by a wide margin in March – will protect our treasured state parks from the environmental insults that come with dumps: foul odors, contaminated water, toxic spills, noise, incessant truck traffic and waste from seagull scavengers that fouls our lakes and streams.

I’m concerned about one park in particular:  the North Country’s Forest Lake State Park on the shores of pristine Forest Lake in Dalton. That’s where Casella Waste Systems – owner of the controversial Bethlehem dump – wants to build its next dump. 

HB 1319 will protect Forest Lake and all our state parks from the negative impacts of landfills…and help keep the North Country from turning into New England’s dump

For the sake of our children and our children’s children, I urge you to vote for HB 1319 in this year’s legislative session. 

Thank you for considering my opinion.  And thank you for your service to New Hampshire in this challenging time.

Sincerely,

Your name

Your address

Dalton: Man Sued By Casella Raises $6K In Fund-Raiser

Has Also Enlisted A First Amendment Attorney

The Caledonian-Record, April 27, 2020

Posted with permission

Robert Blechl

A Dalton man being sued by Casella Waste Systems for what the company alleges is his defamation of Casella has launched a fund-raiser to cover legal expenses that after three days after being online raised $6,000 toward a $10,000 goal.

On Friday, Jon Swan, a critic of Casella’s proposed 180-acre landfill beside Forest Lake State Park, set up his “Protect free speech and Forest Lake from Casella” campaign on gofundme.com.

On Monday, he said he now has his own attorney who has “a lot of experience with First Amendment cases.”

Swan, founder of the landfill opposition group Save Forest Lake, said he is not surprised by the $6,000 raised so far.

“It’s similar to Northern Pass, and I think this company’s reputation precedes it,” he said.

In his fund-raising campaign, Swan called Casella’s litigation “a PR stunt from a very desperate company … and a “frivolous SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] lawsuit meant to harass and silence those opposed to their plans and presence.”

Casella’s lawsuit filed April 14 at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord also names as defendants the Forest Lake Association and up to 20 unnamed people in that group as well as in SFL.

The company alleges the intent of Swan’s campaign is to “disparage [Casella’s] reputation” by publishing false statements of fact” about the company and to prevent it from doing business in New Hampshire, and it alleges Swan made false statements “with the intent and effect of lowering Casella’s esteem in the community” and damaging its reputation in state government, and doing so with “ill will, hatred, hostility, or evil motive …”

As a result, the company alleges it “suffered harm to its reputation and business” and is entitled to a court declaration stating it has been defamed, damages for general harm to reputation without specific proof, and special damages for present and future damages.

Video

The lawsuit was filed one week after Swan created what he called a parody video, titled “Casella Waste Systems CEO Gets Bad News,” using a 4-minute segment from the 2004 German film “Downfall,” about the last days of Adolf Hitler’s life inside the bunker when he learned the Nazis had lost the Second World War.

In Swan’s video, which uses subtitles he wrote for the characters, Hitler is depicted as Casella CEO John Casella and Nazi military officers as several Casella employees.

In a bunker office where the characters are acting, Swan wrote a subtitle for one officer saying, “Mr. Casella, our situation in New Hampshire has become dire. We may have to ship trash to New York instead. This longer route will be costly. Word has gotten out about our bad reputation and we cannot fool anyone anymore.”

“What about Dalton?” Swan wrote for Hitler as John Casella. “They have no zoning. They are a small rural town.”

A tense moment passed between officers, before the Hitler character is informed Dalton voted for temporary, emergency zoning.

“You told me not to worry about the North Country!” Swan wrote in the subtitle for the Hitler character. “You said Ingerson and Gilbody had Dalton under control! You said Cliff Crosby could handle Bethlehem! The board of directors will be furious! Do you know how much money we will lose? John Gay, you said the lot line adjustment would be approved! And Kevin Roy, you said Bethlehem was under control! New Hampshire is supposed to be the center of our garbage empire!”

“But Mr. Casella, we did not know about Jon Swan,” said the first officer.

“Who the hell is Jon Swan?” Swan wrote for the Hitler character. “That sounds like a made-up name!”

“Sir, he rallied the people and formed Save Forest Lake,” said the first officer.

“Then start throwing false promises around and offer money!” Swan wrote in the subtitle for the Hitler character. “I want Forest Lake! These people mean nothing to me! We need a place in New Hampshire for Massachusetts trash! Do you know how much money we make from garbage? Send more mailers and have Cliff Crosby start another petition campaign! Host more family barbecues with pony rides! It is my destiny to make New Hampshire the heart of my garbage empire! I don’t care how you do it, form a new phony grassroots groups with clever names if you have to. We have worked so hard to fool so many host communities.”

After the Hitler character calms down, Swan wrote Casella as saying, “What can we do now? That lake is not that special. We could sue the pants off them like we’ve done elsewhere. We have expensive lawyers who are not dummies. Get the hell out of here, I want to cry.”

Online are a number of “Downfall” parodies that have been created by others using the same 4-minute film segment and they are found on a number of web sites, including on YouTube’s Hitler Rants Parodies channel. One such video includes the New England Patriots winning over the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl 49 in 2015, to a fuming Hitler.

In an op-ed, John Casella said he has been in the solid waste management business for many years, but has never experienced “the kind of sustained, malicious attack on our company that Jon Swan of Dalton has carried out for nearly a year.”

“On April 7, though, Swan took his maliciousness to another level when he created and posted on the Internet a video portraying me as Adolph Hitler and Casella employees and other private citizens as Nazis,” wrote Casella. “This is not just tasteless, to stoop so low as to compare me to one of the greatest monsters in history and our company to the Third Reich, a regime guilty of the genocide of millions, all in an effort to win a community debate. This is the outright, vicious defamation of our organization and our people. It crosses the line into hateful, gutter politics.”

The company’s lawsuit states that Swan, who also goes by the name Jon Alvarez, has a “history of fomenting controversy through extreme and provocative public statements and conduct.”

The lawsuit states that before moving to New Hampshire, Swan lived in upstate New York, “where he formed what he called a ‘militia,’ held a contest on his talk radio program for best papier mâché pig made from the pages of the Koran, and posted a Facebook tribute to a pilot who flew a plane into a federal office building, killing himself and a federal employee.”

On Monday afternoon, Casella spokesman Joe Fusco was asked what the company thinks of Swan’s fund-raiser and Swan’s statement calling the company’s case a SLAPP lawsuit and was asked if Casella has any examples to date of how its business has been harmed by Swan’s statements, such as the loss of a contract or a loss or decrease in a revenue stream.

Fusco said the company has no opinion on Swan’s fund-raising, the legal action is for defamation and is not a SLAPP matter, and the company will present evidence of harm at trial.

Bethlehem: Public To Weigh In On Revised Landfill Expansion Application

Posted with permission.

New Plan Seeks To Lengthen Land-Filling Duration To 2026

Robert Blechl

The Caledonian-Record, April 20, 2020

After Casella Waste Systems in February pulled its application for landfill expansion in Bethlehem, one day before the state concluded it did not meet the public benefit requirement, the company has submitted a revised application that will once again go before residents at a public hearing.

On March 24, North Country Environmental Services, the New Hampshire subsidiary of Casella, submitted its amended application, which also proposes a longer duration of land-filling, lengthening it by several years and taking it to 2026.

The application for Stage 6 expansion is now under review by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to determine whether it is complete.

The department under New Hampshire’s solid waste management rules has 60 days from the March 24 submission to determine if it is complete, representatives with DES’s Solid Waste Management Bureau said last week.

Following a determination of completeness, DES will undertake a technical review of the application and schedule a public hearing to gather input from residents that will be included as part of the department’s decision-making process.

A decision on the application is due four months from its receipt, which might or might not be measured from the March 24 date of submission depending on the completeness of the initial application, or 30 days following a public hearing, whichever occurs latest, said DES representatives.

The time line for DES review can be extended with the consent of the applicant.

Because of the variables, DES representatives said they cannot provide a firm date by which a decision will be made.

The Stage 6 expansion seeks to add 5.7 acres to the current 47-acre landfill footprint that would extend to the east and south of the existing landfill.

If an approval comes in the next few months, NCES in its application states construction would begin later in 2020 and land-filling operations in the new cell would begin in early January and extend through 2026.

The previous Stage 6 application submitted in 2019 had lifespan of 2.3 years before capacity would be reached, then in about 2023.

In its revised application, NCES seeks the same waiver of New Hampshire’s solid waste management rules for a leak detection system and location system design standards, similar to the waivers approved in the Stage 4 permitting in 2013 and Stage 5 in 2014, Bob Grillo, project manager with the Casella-enlisted CMA Engineers, said in a letter informing the town of the new application.

Stage 6 would accept municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris and special waste, with municipal solid waste making up 60 to 70 percent of the waste received at the Trudeau Road landfill, he said.

In February, DES determined that the initial Stage 6 application did not meet the state’s substantial public benefit requirement because its then proposed 400-ton annual waste disposal rate for 2.3 years would occur during a time when New Hampshire is projected to have excess disposal capacity and no regional or statewide capacity need.

In that application, DES concluded NCES was presenting “alternative calculations” on the amount of solid waste to be generated within the state during a 20-year planning period, a statewide shortfall in existing permitted disposal capacity is not projected by DES to occur until after 2025, and land-filling is the least preferred method of solid waste management under the state’s solid waste management statute.

In the revised application, Casella engineer John Gay said the public benefit demonstration has been updated to include 2018 annual facility reports.

According to the new application, the annual rate of fill will drop significantly from the previously proposed 400,000 tons a year to an average annual rate of 175,000 tons to reach the 2026 lifespan, in total taking in about 900,000 tons of waste.

In the application, the company states it “firmly disagreed” with DEC’s conclusion in February that the public benefit requirement was not met in the previous application, but “recognized that DES would not approve the 2019 application as submitted.”

The Stage 6 expansion includes the boundary of a new property Casella purchased in 2015.According to the revised application, company representatives said they anticipate DES approval of Stage 6 in September and phase one construction to be complete and capacity available in January 2021 and phase two of Stage 6, the eastern phase, to undergo construction in 2022 or 2023.

North Country: Casella Takes On Opponents In Defamation Lawsuit

The Caledonian-Record, April 14, 2020

Posted with permission

Lawsuit Respondent Says Case Is “Goliath Sues David” 

Robert Blechl

Taking on its opponents, Casella Waste Systems on Monday filed a defamation lawsuit against a Dalton man and two citizen groups opposed to a 180-acre landfill beside Forest Lake State Park in Dalton.

At Merrimack Superior Court, CWS filed suit against Jon Swan, also known as Jon Alvarez, the Forest Lake Association, and Save Forest Lake for what the company argues are damages “arising from Alvarez’s nearly year-long campaign on behalf of himself and the officers and participating members” of the Forest Lake Association and Save Forest Lake, who the company calls “Doe Defendants 1-20” and whose identities “are not yet known to [Casella].”

The company argues the intent of the alleged campaign is to “disparage [Casella’s] reputation by publishing and disseminating throughout the state of New Hampshire false statements of fact about the plaintiff online, in print, and in person.”

CWS, run by CEO John Casella, alleges the intent of Swan/Alvarez and the co-defendants “is to prevent [the company] from engaging in business in New Hampshire altogether and from developing landfill capacity in Dalton … and they have published a multitude of falsehoods to accomplish that goal, all of which are defamatory statements for which the law makes defendants liable.”

Casella also argues that Swan/Alvarez has sought to interfere in the company’s “prospective economic advantage.”

In addition, the company alleges that many of Swan’s/Alvarez’s statements have been directed to state executive branch officials and lawmakers in Concord “with the purpose of damaging Casella’s reputation in state government.

Swan/Alvarez, argues Casella, made false statements of fact and made statements “with the intent and effect of lowering Casella’s esteem in the community.”

After learning of the lawsuit on Tuesday, Swan said, “I stand by everything I’ve done, and when I have made error, I correct it. I try to make sure everything I say is supported by fact and data. I stand by what I’ve said.”

In the 16-page two-count defamation of character lawsuit, Casella asks the court to issue an injunction against the defendants to prevent them from “defaming” the company, issue an order declaring that the defendants have defamed the company with their words and conduct, and award the company monetary damages for compensation and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

The lawsuit was filed by two Casella attorneys who are also registered lobbyists for Casella.

Accusing him of  “relentless attacks and false statements” that have damaged Casella’s reputation and “infringed upon the livelihood and freedoms of the people of New Hampshire.” 

The new lawsuit against opponents in Dalton comes after previous lawsuits filed by Casella against the town of Bethlehem that were part of efforts to expand its landfill there that the company bought in the mid-1990s.

Recently, opposition to a new landfill in Dalton, as well as an expanded Casella landfill in Bethlehem, has extended beyond Swan and Dalton.

At town meeting in March, Whitefield residents voted almost unanimously to approve a resolution opposing a Casella Waste landfill at Forest Lake in Dalton that the article states would negatively impact the quality of life in Whitefield much more than in Dalton.

The resolution was sent to the governor and executive council, state senators and state representatives, and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

Afterward, on March 16, the Sugar Hill Board of Selectmen wrote letter to the governor in support for the Whitefield resolution opposing the landfill, citing concerns of negative impacts from increased truck traffic, unwanted odors, and declining property values in Sugar Hill, where some of the landfill trucks pass through and have been stored overnight on a property.

Bethlehem voters in 2017 and 2018 voted against a proposal to expand the 61-acre Casella landfill to 161 acres, prompting the company to look elsewhere as it faces a landfill closure in Bethlehem in about 2026.

In July, Dalton residents, in a 154-129 vote at a special town meeting, approved temporary, emergency, zoning for Dalton in response to the proposed landfill.

In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives, in 189-123 vote, passed House Bill 1319, sponsored by state Rep. Elaine French, D-Littleton, which seeks to prohibit the siting of new landfills or expanded landfills within two miles of the boundary of any state or national park.

Swan said he believes the defamation lawsuit could be an attempt to deflect and to defeat HB 1319.

“They lost in the House, they lost in Bethlehem, lost in Dalton twice, so they come after me,” he said. “Like I said all along, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I have been at war to save our lake and our state as I kept going down that rabbit hole called Casella. It will be an interesting trial. Goliath sues David.”

What’s it like to live near a badly-sited dump?

Casella Waste Systems wants to site a massive 180-acre dump in Dalton, NH just half a mile from Forest Lake and at one point just 50 feet from Forest Lake State Park. The dump would be almost the same size as the lake and three times the size of the Bethlehem dump.

NCABC doesn’t oppose reasonable and responsible landfill siting until less damaging ways to manage our solid waste are developed. But poorly-sited dumps pose documented hazards to public health, the environment, our property values and our quality of life. 

Dumps should be located only after careful study and where science, environment, traffic, public health and public process indicate are the best locations — not where a for-profit corporation and a willing seller decide they should be.  

Here’s what we can expect from a Casella dump: 

HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IN OUR WATER   All dumps produce leachate, a potentially toxic brew of chemicalsthat threatens human health and the environment.  And all dumps leak, even the double-lined one that Casella proposes to build.

Leachate typically includes volatile organic chemicals, dissolved organic matter that causes bacterial growth, heavy metals like lead and chromium, and “forever chemicals” called PFAS that degrade slowly, accumulate over time, and harm human health.  

A federal lawsuit accuses Casella of illegally discharging pollutants from its Bethlehem landfill into the Ammonoosuc River.  The lawsuit alleges the leachate contains 1,4-dioxane, a likely human carcinogen.  The now-closed Casella dump in Southbridge, MA has contaminated 21 residential wells with 1,4-dioxane.

LEAKS AND SPILLS   Leaks of leachate can contaminate groundwater, lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and water supplies.  But leaks aren’t the only danger.  A recent spill of leachate near the Casella dump in Coventry, VT reminds us how dumps put local communities at risk. A collision last December involving a tanker truck full of leachate from the Coventry dump spilled 8,000 gallons of leachate that almost emptied the truck and contaminated soil off Route 5. 

HEAVY TRUCK TRAFFIC on our roads.  By Casella’s own estimate, up to 90 round trips a day of trash-hauling trucks and tankers full of toxic leachate would roll up and down steep hills past Whitefield’s elementary school and through the centers of Whitefield and Twin Mountain.

THREATS TO FOREST LAKE   A dump next door would threaten this lake beloved by generations. The lake’s water is so clean that many homes draw their household water from it. And the same clean water makes the lake ideal for swimming, boating and fishing, bringing hundreds of families each year to its beach – one of the few public beaches north of Franconia Notch. 

Comprehensive water quality testing in 2019 found that the lake is essentially free of chemical and heavy metal contamination.  Twenty years of water testing by the state of NH also attest to the lake’s health: in fact, the NH Department of Environmental Services has put Forest Lake on a short list of lakes that don’t need to be routinely tested for bacteria.

FECAL CONTAMINATION from landfill scavengers like seagulls will threaten the lake’s water quality.  1.5 million seagulls feed at landfills across the continent.  Their poop contaminates lakes and wetlands. It causes algae to bloom in lakes and reservoirs, endangers aquatic life, kills fish, incurs cleanup costs that must be funded locally, and closes lakes to swimming, boating and fishing. 

FOUL SMELLS up to 5 miles from the landfill, including hydrogen sulfide (that “rotten egg” smell).  All landfills produce gas from decaying garbage, and about half the gas is methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.  Casella’s Bethlehem and Coventry, VT landfills consistently generate complaints of foul odors. A lawsuit from a Winnebago, IL landfill documented 240 complaints of rotten egg smells, nausea, burning throats and headaches. 

A DUMPING GROUND FOR OUT-OF-STATE TRASH   Private landfills like Casella’s accept and profit from out-of-state trash. One third of the garbage in the Bethlehem dump comes from other states. That’s the plan for Dalton too.

DECLINING PROPERTY VALUES and even our ability to sell property.  Studies show that landfills can depress the value of properties up to three miles away, and homes closest to the dump can see property values fall by as much as 30%.  A neighbor of the Coventry, VT dump estimates his house has lost half its value.  And real estate professionals attest that even the prospect of a dump can make nearby homes difficult or impossible to sell.

A DIMINISHED TAX BASE caused by reduced property values. That means fewer resources to support vital local services.  And that makes everyone’s tax rates go up.

A THREAT TO RECREATION AND TOURISM   People come from all over the world to enjoy our endless scenic and recreational opportunities.  These tourists bring dollars that will be lost when our environment is damaged. 

A MASSIVE WASTE MOUND visible from neighboring homes.  The Bethlehem landfill – only 51 acres compared to potentially 180 acres in Dalton – is now visible from Route 302 and Trudeau Road as well as many White Mountain viewpoints.

FEW BENEFITS AND FEWER JOBS   In spite of promised benefits like tax breaks, free trash pickup and more jobs, Bethlehem and other dump towns repeatedly vote against landfill expansions, having found the supposed tax breaks and jobs to be illusory or exaggerated.  Dumps employ few workers, and those workers face documented health and safety risks.  A dump in Dalton would bring us no “advantages.”  It would bring damage to our roads and our environment, diminished quality of life and falling property values.

A TROUBLING NEIGHBOR   Casella has a long history of violations and compliance failures.  In the past 20 years they’ve been fined multiple times and issued violation notices by environmental departments in NH, MA, NY and PA.  

Bethlehem and Coventry, VT residents have repeatedly voted down landfill expansions championed by Casella.  Yet Casella has continued to push to expand their dumps against the will of their neighbors. 

SAVE THE NORTH COUNTRY FOR OUR CHILDREN.  A dump is forever:  we can expect decades of negative impacts and little or no public benefit in service to Casella’s corporate goals. The damage to our quality of life will last for generations.  

Some Good News for the North Country

Here’s some good news for the North Country, especially welcome after all the worries about Covid-9, quarantines and cancellations.   

HB 1319 – the bill that establishes a 2 mile dump-free buffer around our beloved state parks — passed the NH House of Representatives on Thursday, 189 to 123.  

Many, many thanks to all of you who called, emailed and wrote your legislators about HB 1319.  Next comes a vote in the Senate, probably in April, and the need to urge the governor to sign the bill, which likely means more emails, letters and phone calls.  We’ll keep you posted. 

There were good outcomes from Tuesday’s NH Town Meetings, too: 

Dalton elected Selectwoman Tamela Swan, who was opposed by a dump supporter.  Dalton also voted to start using the Mt. Carberry landfill instead of Casella’s Bethlehem dump.  

Whitefield voted resoundingly to oppose a dump on its doorstep. This is a non-binding resolution, but it demonstrates Whitefield’s strong opposition to the Casella landfill.  

Bethlehem defeated a proposal to establish a little-needed study of the town’s waste management systems, a proposal promoted by Casella.  

Finally, the NH Department of Environmental Services is requiring the Dalton drag strip developer to justify some apparent alterations to his terrain, made in spite of his suspended drag strip permit. 

That’s all for now.  We’ll keep you updated on all these developments.

 Meanwhile, stay well!  And — as always — thank you for your support. 

Thank you for supporting legislative efforts for HB 1319 and HB 1422.

Many, many thanks to all of you who wrote to NH state legislators and attended the NH House committee hearings on Thursday in support of HB 1319 and HB 1422, two bills to limit the negative impact of dumps in the North Country.*
 
More than 50 people came to the hearings in Concord, including supporters of North Country Alliance for Balanced Change, the Forest Lake Association and Save Forest Lake.  One legislator said the House Environment and Agriculture Committee had received more emails in favor of the bills than she’d seen in all her years on the committee.
 
Ten people offered compelling testimony for the bills, including Forest Lake residents and visitors, environmental activists and representatives of the Conservation Law Foundation and Toxics Action Center. Several committee members seemed sympathetic.
 
Of course Casella Waste Systems, which wants to site a new 180 acre dump half a mile from the lake, was there too.  After hearing much testimony about odors, leaks, landfill scavengers and health concerns at Casella dumps, the Casella rep said at one memorable point that dumps and state parks could be compatible neighbors, and a dump would have no impact on Forest Lake’s water quality — though of course he couldn’t guarantee that.  There were no signs of agreement.
 
You can read the press coverage from New Hampshire Public Radio here. You can read an article from the Caledonian Record on our web page below.
 
The House Environment and Agriculture Committee will meet in executive session on March 3 to consider how to act on the bills.  We’ll let you know as soon as we hear more.
 
Again, thank you for everything you do for the North Country!
 
 
North Country Alliance for Balanced Change
 
Sarah Doucette, Adam Finkel, Erik Johnson, Claire Lupton, Mary Menzies and Eliot Wessler
 
 
* HB 1319 would create a dump-free buffer of at least two miles around NH state parks.  HB 1422 would put a two-year moratorium on permits for building or expanding privately-owned for-profit landfills.


North Country:Littleton Rep’s Landfill Bills Amended At Committee Hearing 

(Link above to Caledonian Record)

Executive Session On Tuesday Could Determine Their Fate 

Two bills seeking tighter restrictions on landfills went to public hearing before the House of Representatives’ Environment and Agriculture Committee on Thursday that drew about 40 people, a good number of them North Country residents who ran up against the waste management industry.

“Both sides were well-prepared and both sides made good points, although I don’t agree with all the points that were made,” state Rep. Elaine French, D-Littleton, the lead sponsor of the two bills, said Friday. “The committee seemed interested and asked some good questions.”

While the catalyst for the legislation is the opposition to a possible Casella Waste Systems landfill beside Forest Lake State Park in Dalton, the bills, if passed, would impact landfills statewide.

As it was initially introduced, House Bill 1319 seeks to prohibit the siting of new landfills or expansions of existing landfills near state parks, national parks, or U.S. Department of Agriculture land.

It sought to amend RSA 149-M, New Hampshire’s solid waste management statute, by prohibiting a state permit for the siting of a new public or private facility or for the expansion of an existing public or private facility that is within one mile of the boundary of any state or national park, or within five miles of the boundary of any land managed by the USDA.

HB 1319 was amended, however, to remove the reference to the USDA and the buffer requirement was changed to two miles.

House Bill 1422 seeks to establish a two-year moratorium — from July 2020 to July 2022 — on the issuing of permits for new landfills or the expansion of existing landfills for the purpose of studying the creating of municipal waste districts, which have been advocated by some residents in the North Country.

HB 1422, amended slightly, seeks to amend RSA 149M:9-a by requiring the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to study and evaluate the feasibility of creating municipal waste districts throughout the state and to continue to identify best practices related to solid waste reduction goals as outlined in the statute.

The two bills are co-sponsored by nearly a dozen state representatives from across the state, and among the local sponsors are state Rep. Troy Merner, R-Lancaster, and state Rep. Kevin Craig, R-Lancaster.

The moratorium bill found a few more people opposed, including the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and the buffer bill had mixed support, said French.

Thursday’s hearing drew representatives from Casella, which seeks a 2.3-year expansion at its Bethlehem landfill, an expansion the company said will be the final one in Bethlehem, before it moves to Dalton.

Speaking before the committee on the buffer requirement, Brian Oliver a vice-president of Casella, said, “Casella as a company is not afraid of competition. Competition is good for everybody. But we would expect the state to operate a level playing field. We think that’s fair. And this amendment seems to target a very specific site. So my question is why is it appropriate that a municipal landfill, a state-owned landfill, or a district landfill could be well within two miles and yet a privately owned facility would not be able to be located within two miles? I’m not understanding the rationale there.”

Committee members asked some questions of Oliver, including if he can guarantee that a landfill near Forest Lake would not have an impact on water quality.

Earlier, Oliver said the landfill itself would not have an impact on the water’s quality.

“I can’t guarantee anything, but based on the science, that’s what it would dictate,” he told the committee.

Some don’t feel a landfill and a state park are a good fit, among them, Ellen Hays, of Whitefield, who has said a landfill would negatively impact the quality of life in the area.

“I think that no private corporation has the right to dump trash from all over New England into our state in order to earn money for themselves and their shareholders,” said Hays.

On Tuesday, both bills are scheduled for an executive session, which could determine their fate.

The committee recommendation could be one or both bills ought to pass or one or both would be inexpedient to legislate, or the bills could be put into interim study as an option so their language can be revised and developed, or one or both could be tabled, which means effectively killed.

French remains hopeful the two bills will advance in the legislative process.